MLB playoff scenarios actually give bettors more opportunity in the shortened season
Turning back the calendar to early April and the beginning of the Coronavirus era, the forecast looked rather gloomy for the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Say it isn't so, America was seriously facing being without its favorite cherished pastime in over 150 years. The pandemic looked to wipe out bats and balls, the World Series and along with the NBA, plus the NHL, nothing to seriously bet upon in April through at least August.
Well, true to form April, May and June indeed did offer nothing serious to bet upon unless you count Russian ping pong, darts, or Mexican soccer. Not having baseball in the Spring truly proved that time-honored saying "you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone".
Give the Commish Some Credit
In valiantly announcing the regular season would proceed with a 60-day format and an expanded playoff format, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan got off to a very shaky start.
You may recall he was threatening to end the season back in early June because the Major League players association was not following up with necessary protocols to insure safety against COVID-19. Many of the top online sportsbooks were taking odds whether a MLB season was going to take place with 'Yes' dwindling down to -250 at some locations.
On August 1st Manfred tweeted to ESPN's Karl Ravech this memorable quote "We are playing. The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable." It was Play Ball!
Then disaster struck immediately and there was ample reason to call off the season. One team, the Miami Marlins, experienced a COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in 18 players testing positive. Another, the St. Louis Cardinals, were in the early stages of their own breakout after a handful of players and staffers tested positive. On that initial night alone, a full 20 percent of the league was sidelined due to Coronavirus-related complications. All that despite a well-shortened season being fewer than 10 days old.
Certainly, there were serious risks involved. From a business perspective, baseball headed to the postseason playing regular-season games without any ticket revenue in contract hopes of reaping the lucrative rights fees from TV networks for additional playoff games in October. A large-scale outbreak would be especially chaotic and painful for the league. It was suggested it could make sense for MLB. to adopt the "bubble approach" in the playoffs like the NBA, with fewer teams and a shorter timeline.
Wisely, Manfred stuck to his game plan. He remarked “All I’m going to say about that is we are doing contingency planning with respect to the postseason.”
An Amazing "Off-Speed Pitch"
While never formally issuing a press statement, Manfred has never either denounced or endorsed the public's opportunity to wager on Major League Baseball. Not nearly as outspoken as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in backing gambling's role in sports, Manfred has taken a cautionary discussion position to its place in potentially assisting baseball’s popularity.
Going back to 2015 and speaking to ESPN's Outside the Lines (via David Purdum of ESPN.com), he revealed his desire to at least connect with fellow commissioners to gauge where everyone stands so leagues can build a more unified front.
"Gambling in terms of our society has changed its presence on legalization, and I think it's important for there to be a conversation between me and the owners about what our institutional position will be," he said.
Flash forward to mid-2019, a year after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed PASPA, opening the door for US states to welcome legalizes sports wagering, Manfred then said "I see sports wagering as a great source of fan engagement, in general, we see it as a positive."
Hmmm…talk about an incredible off-speed pitch.
2020 MLB Playoffs Bettor Up!!
Now comes our 2020 Major League Baseball Playoffs with an expanded format, more teams, and dozens of new sports betting possibilities. The good news offering more product for sports wagering fans to bet upon among a crowded menu. The bad news for baseball is just that. If traditional NFL and NCAA College Football were not enough in October, they are also up against the NBA Playoffs, which could stretch out for two weeks.
The point being is Commissioner Manfred knows beyond any reasonable doubt that MLB needs the boost that sports wagering brings to help enhance sagging television ratings and falling fan interest. Playing several extra playoff games during the afternoon not only is returning lost ticket sales but is being enhanced by a new generation of baseball bettors. America’s past time slowly has gone past its time. People staying tuned across America to watch a 10-1 game in the 7th inning is the "fan engagement" he referred to that wagering provides.
Betting on the 2021 MLB Season and Beyond
Who knows how long our current pandemic will last when forecasting the future and the upcoming sports schedules? However, it will be interesting evaluating the ramifications of what MLB has learned by making some courageous and a few lucky decisions going forth to play ball games in 2020.
Hopefully, the situation will improve rapidly by the time spring training breaks, making way for a normal 162-game season beginning around April 1st. An interesting aspect will be how the expanded playoff format necessary for the COVID-19 baseball season might just work well as an ongoing fixture. One thing is for sure, like stadium hot dogs and mustard, it has now been proven that baseball and gambling go very well together for all parties involved.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.