NEW YORK — For the first time in 76 years, the World Series will be played entirely at one site.
Major League Baseball and the players’ association on Tuesday reached a bubble agreement for this year’s playoffs, which will concluded with the Fall Classic being played at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
As part of an agreement, the Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series will be part of a bubble designed to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, which decimated the regular season and limited it to a 60-game schedule for each club.
The playoff format was expanded from 10 to 16 teams for this season. The first games will be played Sept. 29.
All but the first round of the postseason will be played at neutral sites. In the opening round, the three division champions and second-place team with the best record in each league will host best-of-three series.
The AL Division Series will be at San Diego's Petco Park and Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium, and the NL Division Series at the Rangers’ Globe Life Park and Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The World Series will also be played at Globe Life, a retractable roof stadium with artificial turf that opened this year adjacent to the Rangers' old ballpark. Texas is last in the AL West at 17-30 entering Tuesday, with little chance of advancing to the postseason.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday there's a chance there could be fans in the ballpark for the World Series, and possibly the ALCS and NLCS as well, USA Today reported. All games so far this season have been played in empty stadiums due to the pandemic.
Beginning next week, the final week of the regular season, all teams mathematically alive for the playoffs will be required to move into hotels in an effort to help prevent against a COVID-19 outbreak from wreaking havoc on the postseason. All players on the 40-man rosters on injured lists and up to 50 additional personnel ranging from bullpen catchers to front-office staff must remain at the team's transitional hotel or travel with the team on the road.
“In the view of our infectious disease experts, the biggest risk of exposure for players and staff is contact with family members and friends who have been exposed to COVID-19 in their communities,” Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a memo sent to teams Monday night. “Nearly all of the positive test results that have been reported for players and staff in the last month can be traced back to contact with an infected family member, domestic partner, or friend outside of club facilities.”
Under an exception wanted by the players' association, any player who either lives him himself, lives with a spouse or domestic partner who is pregnant or has special medical needs documented by a physician or is living with children may quarantine at home during the transition period, with a provision that MLB will not approve a large number of requests to quarantine at home.
Only spouses, domestic partners, children and child care providers can stay with players during the transition period, and people other than players may not bring family to the transition hotel or on the road. Family members will not be allowed into the bubble hotels at the four sites unless they complete a supervised seven-day quarantine.
A player also may have up to six family members and quests stay at separate family hotels at the four sites. MLB said it will use best efforts to arrange visits in supervised, outdoor places.
While the NFL plays the Super Bowl at a neutral site selected in advanced, baseball has resisted the idea, which has been long advocated by prominent agent Scott Boras.
The World Series was last played at one site in 1944 at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, where the Cardinals beat the Browns four games to two. New York's Polo Grounds hosted all the games in 1921 and 1922, the last two seasons it was the home of both the New York Giants and Yankees. The Giants won both titles.