Those MLB postseason “bubbles” may not be true bubbles after all. Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league expects fans to attend both the NLCS and World Series in 2020, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, MLB will host most of the postseason at neutral sites in Southern California and Texas. The AL teams will play at Dodger Stadium and Petco Park in California during the Division Series and Championship Series, while the NL will play at Minute Maid Park and Globe Life Field. The World Series will also be played at Globe Life Field, in Arlington, Texas.
Texas is one of the states that has allowed spectators to attend sporting events in 2020. Over 21,000 fans attended the Dallas Cowboys’ home opener Sunday. That figure was a record during the coronavirus.
Because of that, MLB is looking to host fans at games held at Globe Life Field for the final two rounds of the postseason held there. (California is not allowing fans, so the ALCS would not be attended by any spectators.)
“We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas,’’ said Manfred, with a ticket sales announcement expected soon. “One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans. Starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game.’’
MLB’s plan to host fans is still pending approval from Texas government officials.
Rob Manfred wants fans at MLB games in 2020
Manfred, 61, has pushed for fans to attend games over the past few weeks. Following the announcement MLB would operate at neutral sites in the playoffs, Manfred said he hoped fans could attend games during the postseason.
If that happens, the neutral-site bubbles aren’t really bubbles at all. If fans are allowed to come and go freely, that negates the entire concept of a bubble, where very few people are let in or out of a predetermined site for weeks at a time. Both the NHL and NBA have employed strict bubble plans this season, and have not seen any significant coronavirus outbreaks.
It should be noted that while reporters have used the term “bubble” when discussing MLB’s plan, the league has not used that term. None of the league’s official correspondence makes reference to a “bubble” or “bubbles” when talking about MLB’s postseason plans. They have said the neutral-site plans are being put in place “due to health, safety and competitive considerations.”
Manfred spoke to TIME about a bubble concept in August, but he was talking about what the NHL and NBA have done.
“A bubble is a very difficult thing,” says Manfred. “Hats off to Adam [Silver] and Gary [Bettman] for being able to pull it off. But we’re deep in the process.”
Other than that, Manfred and MLB haven’t used the term “bubble.”
How can fans attend MLB games in 2020?
While Manfred wants to host fans, the deal hasn’t been approved yet. With all of that still up in the air, it’s unclear how the league will operate if fans are allowed in parks. Some of those restrictions will be left to local government and Globe Life Field. Both sides will need to determine the best practices for fans being allowed into the park.
At the very least, MLB will need to outline measures for players, including how to handle having fans in the ballpark. One would imagine players will be discouraged from being in contact with fans — among other restrictions — though that’s speculative. Still, the league needs to outline rules and regulations to ensure players remain healthy so that the postseason can proceed without any delays.
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