3:55pm: Because of concerns over air quality in the West Coast (the Mariners-Giants game in Seattle on Tuesday was postponed for that reason), the Phoenix area has become the league’s top fallback option for postseason games, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweets.
12:52PM: Major League Baseball has officially announced the postseason schedule, which is set to begin on September 29 with the start of the AL wild card series. One notable aspect of the schedule is that there aren’t any scheduled off-days until the World Series, so teams won’t get any break (or a chance to reset their pitching staffs) unless they win their series in early fashion.
10:25am: Players’ families will have the option of quarantining at the hotel with them in the seven days prior to the postseason, Rosenthal tweets. They’d then be able to join the bubbles for the duration of the playoffs.
9:49am: Sherman further reports that teams will continue operating their alternate training sites during the pre-postseason quarantine, but transfers between the alternate site and big league roster won’t be permitted. As such, all players on the IL and 40-man roster are likely to join in that quarantine setting to allow clubs to continue to make roster moves.
That’s hardly an ideal setup, as those players seem unlikely to be able to participate in simulated games and other standard workouts, but the league is clearly exercising extra caution in order to ensure the postseason is able to take place.
9:37am: Sherman adds that the previously reported quarantine measures leading up to the playoffs will remain in place for players. All members of contending clubs, even those playing at home, will quarantine in hotels for seven days prior to the first round of postseason play. They’ll be tested daily during that period. If a team is eliminated from postseason contention in that seven-day span, of course, those players can leave the hotels early.
9:30am: Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are in agreement on a plan for the 2020 postseason that includes a “bubble” format hosted at neutral sites for the Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). A formal announcement is expected today.
Details of the arrangement remain sparse, although at last check, the plan was to host the ALDS and ALCS at National League stadiums in southern California (Dodger Stadium and San Diego’s Petco Park). The NLDS and NLCS, in turn, would be hosted at a pair of American League sites: the Rangers’ Globe Life Field and the Astros’ Minute Maid Park. The World Series would be staged at Globe Life Field as well. The first round of play would be hosted at the home park of the matchup’s higher seed, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
Those points seemed largely agreed upon, but there were other details to be hammered out. Notably, players pushed back against the quarantine measures that were to be put in place for their family members before being permitted to join them in the bubble. It also appears that there’s been some discussion of allowing fans in a limited capacity, as commissioner Rob Manfred suggested last night in an online event with Hofstra University’s business school (link via Evan Drellich of The Athletic). Whether that possibility is woven into the agreement is not yet clear.
“I’m hopeful that the World Series and the LCS we will have limited fan capacity,” Manfred said in that appearance. “…Obviously it’ll be limited numbers, socially distanced, protection provided for the fans in terms of temperature checks and the like. Kind of the pods like you saw in some of the NFL games. We’ll probably use that same theory.”
Referring to anything as a “bubble” when family members and fans — even in limited quantities — are permitted to enter the equation seems like a reach, but it’s notable that it’s even under discussion. Limited fan attendance would complicate health and safety protocols but would also soften the financial blow that clubs are facing without gate revenue in 2020. It could also serve as somewhat of a litmus test in advance of the 2021 season, which Manfred acknowledged is not a given to return to normalcy from day one:
“I think the trick in terms of what’s going to happen next year, it’s dependent on the virus,” said Manfred. “The virus controls and it’s ‘do you have a vaccine? Are we still seeing spikes?’ That’s going to drive what local governments are going to allow us to do.”