The Dodgers clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason Thursday with a win over the Oakland Athletics. All that really means in 2020 is they’ll get to wear their white uniforms more often in October.
The only true home games for the Dodgers will be played in the wild-card round starting Wednesday. They’ll host the to-be-determined eighth-seeded team for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. After that, if they advance, they'll enter a bubble in Arlington, Texas, for the National League Division Series.
But even those wild -card round games won’t have the same home feel. Most members of the team won’t be living at home. Instead, Major League Baseball mandated that they move into a hotel this week to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak leading into the postseason. On Friday, MLB announced its latest round of testing didn't reveal any positives among players. The league said it hasn't had new positives among players for 26 straight days and 34 of the last 35 days.
“It's the best way to eliminate or minimize exposure,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So I think that as far as us being on the one-yard line, getting to the postseason and getting through it, it's a responsible way to do it. … In a year that you're going to be inconvenienced for good reason at times and this is another, this fits under the umbrella.”
With a few exceptions afforded to players, the team must stay in the hotel bubble through the end of the regular season and wild card round. They can’t gather anywhere inside the hotel. They can leave only for games. Hotel security is to ensure the bubble is maintained. So, for over a week, their days will be spent between their hotel rooms and the ballpark before traveling to Texas to enter another bubble. If they reach the World Series, it would essentially become a month-long road trip in a bubble similar to the shorter road trips they took during the regular season.
“It's going to be an interesting month, stuck in hotels, not able to go do really much of anything,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said. “We're in nice hotels. Food's always provided. So, it's not going to be too bad. It's just going to kind of feel like we're on the road the whole time. ... It's going to be an adjustment and an interesting playoffs from that point of view.”
It’s a measure MLB announced just 10 days ago as part of its playoff bubble plan. Houston and Arlington will host the NL playoffs. Los Angeles and San Diego will host the American League side. Not all players have had to enter the bubble. Players who live alone, with a pregnant partner or one with medical needs, or have lived with their children for most of the season were given exemptions.
As for the coaching and support staffs, Roberts said the Dodgers offered rooms in another hotel so family members could fulfill the mandatory seven-day quarantine to enter the bubble in Texas.
“I can't speak to Major League Baseball,” Roberts said. “I can speak to the Dodgers and I don't think every team acted the way we did. But our ownership group allowed us to have our families go into a separate bubble to quarantine to then be able to join us in Texas. I know myself, the players, the coaches, their families are very grateful.”
It’s a strange finish to a strange year, but MLB is a month away from doing something many doubted it would in 2020: crowning a World Series champion.