The 2020 MLB season remains on hold most notably because of the ongoing labor standoff between players and owners. However, a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in places like Florida and Arizona has also complicated matters. Three teams on Friday -- the Phillies and Blue Jays in Florida and the Giants in Arizona -- closed their training facilities because of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. In response, MLB is considering closing all 30 facilities and re-establishing testing protocols for players using those facilities, a source tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post, and MLB and the MLBPA, according to Bob Nightengale, are ramping up discussions of health and safety protocols.
Those developments, in turn, have MLB reportedly once again considering the "bubble" setup in the event that a 2020 season comes to pass. Jared Diamond and Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal report that playing all games in a single host city or region has re-emerged as a possible path forward.
MLB originally gave thought to such an idea in the spring, with an eye toward Arizona and its abundance of spring training facilities plus Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks. In late April, our own R.J. Anderson reported that MLB was considering playing all games at three "hubs" in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Eventually, though, the focus shifted to grouping teams by region and playing games in the usual home ballparks, albeit with no fans in attendance for at least the start of the season.
The uptick in cases in certain locations that are important to MLB is no doubt playing a role in this reconsideration, as is the fact that COVID-19 has infiltrated multiple training facilities. In the Blue Jays' instance, their facilities might have been in line to host games in the event that Canadian COVID-19 policies would not allow the team to play at the Rogers Centre.
Given the recent trends of the virus, establishing a bubble in Arizona, Florida, or even Texas may no longer prove viable. On that front, Diamond and Cohen's names Southern California as one possible location. As well, Diamond on Twitter noted that the Chicago-Milwaukee area has been discussed as a possible bubble option. In addition to the presence of three MLB ballparks, the area is also home to a number of minor league and independent league facilities. That's also the case for Southern California.
While the necessity of players' and owners' coming to terms is duly noted, the virus will in a real sense have the final say on what the 2020 season will look and if there will even be one. Friday's events serve as an acute reminder of that reality.