Last night, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball was considering instituting some kind of bubble setup for the playoffs come fall. Considering the lack of success in preventing teams from suffering outbreaks of coronavirus that sidelines them for days or weeks and causes games to be postponed, it makes a lot of sense.
Passan went on Get Up this morning to personally advocate for the concept, arguing that there's no time in the playoffs for a team to go a week without playing games in the case of an outbreak.
Points were made, and it's hard to find any ground on which to disagree with Passan. The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins are the most extreme examples of what could happen without a bubble, but a whole team doesn't have to enter quarantine to tank the postseason. Juan Soto missed the first week because of a positive test and then a confusing flurry of subsequent false positives. That could still very well happen inside a bubble environment, but at least protocols were in place to ensure everything was done to prevent it. Chalking something like that up to dumb luck is easier to swallow than dumb luck and negligence by players, staff, or the league offices.
But what would it look like? They probably couldn't do one big bubble for all the teams, since there aren't many places in the country where there are several major league-quality fields within a short distance of one another. It'll be even more difficult with the planned expanded postseason bracket. MLB's best bet is probably to see how that bracket shakes out, then split up the 16 teams into two bubbles in states that have the facilities and infection rates to make it possible. After that, they keep the teams participating in the divisional series in the bubble through the end of the LCS. A one-two week quarantine would follow as the World Series participants gather in one bubble, then they're off.
But that would take a lot of brain and manpower that MLB has seemed reluctant to employ to this point. What seems like the realistic scenario is MLB lets the wild card games play out like normal and cross fingers that nothing goes wrong, then institute a bubble for the rest of the playoffs. That could go awry in a variety of ways, but creating multiple bubbles for eight teams is far easier than 16, especially when considering that the wild card teams will be playing a maximum of three games.
No matter which way you slice it, though, Passan is right. The margin for error is far too slim without a bubble to have a realistic chance of holding the playoffs without an outbreak that would, at the very least, compromise competitive integrity and, at the worst, derail the entire endeavor. One way or another, a bubble is needed if a World Series champ is to be crowned.