Hey, Major League Baseball, we’ve got your playoff bubble right here.
No, really. Right here. In Chicago.
Yeah, we know. The 2020 postseason plan announced by MLB this week sends the National League to Texas and American League to southern California until the World Series, when the two left standing meet in Arlington, Texas.
And that’s great. “That’s how it has to be,” Cubs center fielder and union rep Ian Happ said. “To ensure the safety and to make sure guys aren’t traveling all over the country, it’s the right thing to do.”
But here’s the even more right thing to do: If this crapshoot of an expanded postseason sends two teams from the same market into the World Series, change of plans.
Move the World Series to that market.
You know, if, say, the Giants and A’s reach the World Series, bounce their bubbles back to the Bay Area.
What we’re really talking about is the White Sox and the Cubs — who as the teams now in the Nos. 1 and 2 seed positions, respectively, in their leagues look like actual, bona fide pennant contenders.
At least one of them does.
Either way. It’s not complicated. It might not even present much, if any, increased risk for the “bubbled” personnel with only the final two teams in the tournament heading home for the final round.
“It hasn’t been discussed; I can tell you that,” Happ said. “Not at least that I’ve heard.”
Then start discussing it.
Because if MLB doesn’t stick a plan for this in its back pocket just in case the opportunity arises, it’ll kick itself for years with the same foot it has shot itself in dozens of times with past poor decisions.
It’s hard to make a safety and/or protocol argument against it. Nobody has handled coronavirus safety better than the Cubs and few better than the Sox. Their home bubbles have been safe havens for the last 2 1/2 months.
“It’s an interesting possibility,” Happ mused. “And the other part of that is that the landscape is changing so fast, especially when you see the NFL come back. I don’t think fans were in the [conversation] for baseball until football had fans.”
Six NFL teams announced plans to allow fans at games on a limited basis this season, and Week 1 games in Jacksonville and Kansas City, had announced attendance of 14,100 and 15,895.
Did somebody say ka-ching?
One of those six NFL teams is the Cowboys, who play their home games walking distance from the ballpark MLB selected for its World Series site.
For now, baseball has indicated no plans for postseason attendance, but it clearly is watching for the first opportunity to add to the $1 billion postseason broadcasting payoff that this entire COVID-19 undertaking has been about.
As Happ said, there never was a time this season — even as two MLB teams had major outbreaks early — that he felt the league would stop the season.
“We were always going to get to the finish line,” he said. “It would have taken something insane to not make it here. And that’s why the protocols have been so strict and will continue to be so strict going through to the [playoff] bubble. If you look behind the curtain there, it’s all about getting the games in; it’s all about getting to the World Series and getting to the finish line.”
You want a finish line with maximum payoff? Maybe that’s Texas with state and local leaders willing to invite thousands of fans to gather for sports.
But if that willingness expands between now and late October to leaders around here? And, against all odds, the Cubs and Sox pull off a 1906 October rematch?
Imagine the demand for that limited edition ticket.
“Now it comes down to what’s feasible, what’s possible, and I think that anything’s on the table,” said Happ, who in his next breath suggested a “logistical nightmare” in making that change to accommodate specific results of the League Championship Series.
“You would have to ask the commissioner.”
Done. Somebody take a memo: Ka-ching.