After weeks of speculation and negotiations involving the possibility of MLB playing the 2020 postseason in a neutral-site format, the league officially announced plans Tuesday to hold the division series, championship series, and World Series at neutral sites. The two National League Division Series will be held at Globe Life Field in Arlington and Minute Maid Park in Houston; the two American League Division Series will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego; the NLCS will be held in Arlington and the ALCS in San Diego; and the World Series will take place in Arlington.
The 2020 @MLB Postseason will begin with the AL Wild Card Series on Tuesday, 9/29, while Game One of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas will be played on Tuesday, 10/20. pic.twitter.com/KSzWMSAcBk— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) September 15, 2020
Official announcement. No off-days during wild-card round, Division Series and League Championship Series. Will be played straight through. pic.twitter.com/M1ViE3ZUEP— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 15, 2020
While MLB seems to have done a pretty good job of fine-tuning its protocols to the point where players and staff members are no longer testing positive for COVID-19, save for Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson’s apparently false positive last weekend, league officials were undoubtedly persuaded by the fact that neither the NBA or NHL has had a single positive test since entering their respective bubbles back in July. It should be noted that MLB’s neutral-site format isn’t nearly as strict as either of those leagues’ are — it would theoretically be possible for an AL team to have to travel for every round of the postseason if it reaches the World Series — but it seems less risky than having teams travel multiple times per round, and it would have seemed even more alluring about a month ago, back when teams like the Cardinals and Marlins were getting shut down for weeks at a time due to massive COVID-19 outbreaks, all while other leagues didn’t even have to worry about coronavirus concerns due to superior planning.
The biggest twist in this announcement is that there will be no off days for the first three rounds of the postseason. Whereas teams often have been able to survive on four- or even three-man rotations in the playoffs, this format will force teams to choose between starting pitchers on short rest or utilizing their full starting five like in the regular season. In addition, it seems unfathomable to think teams will be able to use their top relievers on a near-every-game basis as had been common practice in the postseason. It’ll definitely present a new and unexpected challenge for teams with less pitching depth, and it will likely change the way teams build their postseason rosters — while many teams have opted for deeper benches, often featuring pinch-running and defensive specialists, while leaving fifth-starter and long-reliever types off the playoff roster in the past, this format will encourage deeper pitching staffs. Of course, that shouldn’t be as big of a concern anyway since teams have expanded 28-man rosters due to the unique nature of the schedule this year.