News emerged today that the MLB season is considered “in jeopardy” due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Looking around the sports world, not many leagues are having this same problem. Today, the NHL announced that out of 4,256 COVID-19 tests administered to its players, zero came back positive. Last week, the NBA reported that out of 346 players tested, zero came back positive.
In MLB, more than a dozen Marlins players and staff are reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, news that has postponed games and put the season in jeopardy.
What’d MLB do differently?
Bubble vs Tour
The NBA and the NHL opted for a bubble system, as opposed to touring from city to city. The NBA has 22 teams bubbling in Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida. NBA teams will use the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The NHL opted for a slightly different system. Eastern Conference teams will bubble in Toronto, staying at either Hotel X or Fairmont Royal York. Teams will play at the Leafs’ Scotiabank Arena. Western Conference teams will bubble in Edmonton, staying at either JW Marriott, Delta Hotel or Sutton Place Hotel, with the Matrix Hotel being recently announced as part of the bubble as well. Teams will play at the Oilers’ Rogers Place Stanley Cup Finals games and semi-finals will be played in Edmonton.
Instead, the MLB opted to travel from city to city… in the most COVID-infected country (and cities) in the world.
That probably wasn’t going to be the ideal situation.
More travel, more surfaces, that comes with more risk. A closely-monitored bubble allows for easier testing, easier sanitization, and closer safety protocols.
Now, the Marlins are stranded in Philadelphia, with their home opener postponed and their season in jeopardy.
It’s far too late for MLB to make a change without significantly altering the season. While other leagues were carefully planning their bubble, MLB was having a war with their own players.
Creating a bubble would take additional months of planning, implementing, and even getting players and organizations to agree to one.
The first warning sign should’ve been the fact that their Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays, were arena-less as the season was getting ready to start. The uncertainty around teams having a place to stay should’ve been enough for MLB to at least consider a bubble.
What now? We wait. Rob Manfred and MLB have a few options. Continue as normal, while quarantining the infected players (and making the Marlins bring in AAA players, I guess). Postpone the season, wait for any outbreaks to recover. Postpone the season longer and figure out a bubble situation. Or just cancel the season outright.
None of those are great options, but what choice does the league have?
MLB, as well as other leagues getting ready to start up, need to ask themselves, would a bubble have helped prevent an outbreak? For now, all MLB can do is wonder.
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