Postseason Games at 'Neutral' Sites? Advantage Dodgers
For the sake of argument, and to give the OC a rare thrill, let’s say the Dodgers play the Angels in the 2020 World Series, around Thanksgiving. Cold-weather solved. Genius!
But if it’s the Cubs versus the Yankees in the Fall Classic, problem. Big problem. You want to tell fans in those towns the games will be played on neutral sites? Knock yourself out, pal, because if you don’t, they will.
With action across the sports world shut down indefinitely because of COVID-19, these are the types of conversations that are going on in the offices of Major League Baseball, the clubs and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Or the virtual offices, anyway. And while the recent agreement between MLB and the MLBPA focuses on salary, service time, the amateur and international drafts, ESPN.com's Jeff Passan notes that the "[f]lexibility of both sides was seen in the willingness to extend the regular season into October, play neutral-site playoff games in November and add doubleheaders to the schedule."
For the purposes of this discussion the key phrase there is "neutral-site playoff games in November."
Nothing is even close to being finalized, and probably won't be until the last minute, but I imagine that "neutral-sites" will translate to relatively fair-weather locales including but not limited to Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Texas, along with domed stadiums cities, such as Milwaukee and Tampa (gasp!), plus Arizona, which qualifies on both the weather and indoor-outdoor front. And if need be, Toronto. As much as it will annoy the L.A. faithful to hear it, Houston works too.
That puts a third of the sport's ballparks in play as neutral-site options before a ball has been thrown in the 2020 season. And while I wouldn't make a prediction like this, it's a physical possibility that the teams in those 10 cities will represent the entirety of the postseason tournament. Unlikely, sure, but it gives you an idea how few neutral sites may be required, and how many solutions exist.
If in the end a couple of series do need to be played on neutral turf, Dodgers fans will travel to Anaheim, San Diego and Arizona for road games in November, just as they do from March through September every year as it is. Without missing a beat. In fact, they'd view it as an opportunity they wouldn't have in any other year but this one. And they'll embrace it.
Finally, I'll add this: There's no raining in baseball. The most important games of the year in a driving rain? Pass. And after all the country will have been through come fall, a handful of well-executed postponements on account of the weather -- with the open dates they'll create in the playoff schedule -- will seem like a charming little alternative to, say, a Red Sox vs. the Mets World Series at Tropicana Field.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.