It's one of the ideas now on the table - as is virtually every whacky idea under the sun - for this shortened baseball season, but how would Atlanta Braves fans feel if having to travel for a playoff series?
Picture this: the Atlanta Braves win the NL East for a third consecutive time, and then prevail in the first round of the playoffs. But now it's December 8 and their NLCS matchup has to be played in... Arlington, Texas??
While we're getting well ahead of ourselves in assuming an NLCS appearance for the Braves, the point here is that the weird and wacky ideas are out in force now as many are speculating about how a shortened or otherwise revamped MLB season might be shaped.
Even super-agent Scott Boras is getting into the act now, having actually submitted a proposal to the MLB offices that makes multiple proposals:
- a full 162-game season (starting on June 1);
- a cropped 144-game season (starting July 1);
- Playoffs running essentially as before between December 3rd and 26th; and
- Neutral site playoff venues
In Boras' world, his concept would be to guarantee the avoidance of Winter weather conditions by leveraging the most southern and most protected (i.e., domed) stadiums in the league and thus preserving the vast majority of a 'whole' major league season.
Those sites would be:
- 3 Southern California venues (LA, Anaheim, and San Diego)
- 8 domed fields (Texas, Miami, Houston, Phoenix, Toronto, St. Petersburg, Milwaukee, Seattle)
College football fans have been used to going on 2-4 days mini-vacations to follow their team to an annual bowl game - that's practically become a ritual.
But aside from some MLB fanbases that (a) are said to 'travel well' or (b) already have lots of fans in competing cities... the idea of not being able to see your own team in home playoff games is not only a foreign concept... it's practically sacrilege.
Boras is one who has been advocating for this idea for years, and this year... he could very well get that wish granted since the chances of playing baseball into the Winter is actually quite possible.
An early snowstorm that either postponed a playoff series or changed the normal weather conditions dramatically would be a disaster for the sport.
Sure: other ideas being floated to get in as many games as possible include (nearly) weekly doubleheaders, 7-inning game double-headers, reduced off-days (that part is almost a given), and rosters expanding to 27, 28... possibly even 30 players. But playing into November (at least) seems like a lock.
There are also ideas coming out of the woodwork: adding more wild card teams, 1st half/2nd half winners, and season lengths anywhere from 100 to the aforementioned 162 games.
There are certainly upsides and downsides to any of these ideas; but at the moment, I'm most interested in the neutral-site playoffs.
From the sound of it, Boras would institute the neutral-site plan for every playoff game... not just the World Series (and if the idea is to avoid bad weather, that makes sense).
But imagine being a fan wanting to follow his/her team: with virtually no days to prepare, you'd have to obtain tickets (somehow), fly to a city, get car/hotel/directions/meals, watch the games, and then hope all of that is repeated in the next city for the next series.
It's not impossible... but it's definitely grossly expensive and impractical, which effectively means that you'd be counting on local fans to fill their stadiums... a tough chore since their own team is either (a) competing elsewhere or (b) eliminated, leaving fans to consider football, basketball or hockey as alternate options.
The irony here is that most of us are currently homebound and unable/unwilling to travel very far at all... and this idea is demanding that we chuck those restrictions completely by December.
But that's the kind of thing we're looking at in this highly unusual year of baseball that won't even get started for at least a couple more months at a minimum.
Would you be willing to follow the Atlanta Braves around for the playoffs... in whatever form these playoffs might take?