Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have spent considerable time negotiating a postseason “bubble” format in recent weeks, and it appears the two sides are moving toward a deal — although some notable hurdles remain in place. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that the Rangers’ Globe Life Field would host the World Series and the NLCS under the currently proposed format, while San Diego’s Petco Park would be in line to host the ALCS. The ALDS would take place in two NL parks: Dodger Stadium and Petco Park. The ALDS would be split between Globe Life Park and Houston’s Minute Maid Park. That alignment of games played would allow all series to be held at neutral sites.
As was the case with negotiations on a return to play and on this year’s expanded postseason format, however, talks between the two sides haven’t been seamless. The league is seeking to adopt similar health-and-safety protocols to those in the NBA and the NHL, which would require some strict guidelines for the family members of players — specifically, a seven-day quarantine prior to entering the bubble. That has been met with some pushback from players.
Dodgers union rep Justin Turner voiced his disapproval of the notion to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal this week, pointing to the number of successful games played throughout the season and minimal outbreaks that were due to “poor choices by individuals.” The quarantine for family members would represent a departure from in-season protocols, as Turner points out, noting that he’s spent the entire season with his family when home. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote yesterday that Turner and the Dodgers aren’t alone in their belief that the proposed protocols for family are too stringent; other clubs are similarly resistant to the notion.
The league’s current proposal would even see contending clubs who finish the season playing at home isolating at hotels for seven days leading up to the playoffs rather than spending them at home. Family members would have the option of quarantining over that same period and then entering the bubbles after the Wild Card round of play. Alternatively, they could quarantine at a later date and enter the bubble beginning with the LCS round of play.
There’s still time for the two sides to align on an agreement, but it’s not a surprise to see MLB borrowing from what have been successful bubble formats in other sports — particularly given that reports have indicated the postseason could generate upwards of $800MM in television revenue (including a reported $200-300MM in additional revenue thanks to the expanded format). The 2020 playoff expansion included a $50MM pool for the players, representing a departure from the typical player pool, which is driven by gate but not television revenue.