The season itself is in flux for Major League Baseball. Optimistically assuming a mid-May start, coupled with a hundred game season, would potentially slot a neutral site World Series in late November or early December.
In addition to the obvious weather concerns, a fixed, and fan attended, neutral site World Series could create a disastrous situation for a heavily regionalized sport rapidly losing natural interest – lackluster attendance.
— theScore (@theScore) March 28, 2020
Of course, some baseball is remarkably better than the world we live in now without baseball entirely. However, there’s a major opportunity for embarrassment for the MLB wrapped inside this neutral site idea. Empty seats will litter the broadcast of baseball’s premier event. This isn’t in reference to playing games without fans completely, it is in reference to a sport that has lost any sort of grip on a national following.
The fans of the Boston, Los Angeles, New York ilk will certainly travel, if able, for the Winter Classic. What about Tampa Bay, Minnesota, or Milwaukee fans? Are they going to brave airports to fill up PETCO Park in San Diego in December? If not, will there be enough interest from local baseball fans to pay gaudy World Series prices to fill seats? Doubtful.
Embattled by pace of play issues, the last thing the league needs right now is internationally broadcasted empirical evidence of domestic disinterest with baseball.
Perhaps banning camera pans during the broadcast as Joe Buck waxes poetic serves as the easiest solution, but empty seats will be a story regardless. One can imagine the ESPN First Take topic now “What should MLB do about empty seats at the World Series?”, accompanied by shot after shot of vacant plastic seats punctuated with verbose walk-a-doodle solutions.
A Potential Solution
A more functional solution, and one that has been bandied about during this internet Golden Era, is to take a page from March Madness. Corner off geographic regions and utilize sites proximal to the two team’s home cities to avoid Atlanta Braves “home games” in Seattle. Fans will attend and both teams would be in a visiting clubhouse.
By no means a perfect solution, but it could work. Minnesota could play in Milwaukee, New York could play in Toronto and so on. Side note, imagine the videos of Yankees fans stuck in Canadian passport control lines after a loss.
To create at least the illusion of fairness, temperate weather teams like the Dodgers should not be hosting WS games in their home stadium. Neither should the Astros. Check that, especially the Astros. At least force Dodger fans to bear the merciless 405 Freeway to watch their team play in San Diego and subject Astros fans to a four hour slog to Dallas.
World Series Stadiums by Region
- AL East: Rogers Centre, Toronto
- AL Central: Miller Park, Milwaukee
- AL West: Globe Life Park, Dallas
- NL East: Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay
- NL Central: Minute Maid Park, Houston
- NL West: PETCO Park, San Diego
Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball cannot afford another misstep. They have to get the World Series right, or at least not completely wrong.