On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced the 2020 playoff schedule, which will be partially bubbled in Texas and Southern California.
The expanded Wild Card round, which will feature eight teams in each league, will take place from Tuesday, September 29th through Friday, October 2nd. These games will be held in the home stadiums of the top four seeds in each league and will be played straight through without off days in between games of each series.
The Division Series will be bubbled, with one AL series taking place at Petco Park in San Diego and another AL series taking place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. In the National League, one series will be held in Houston’s Minute Maid Park, and another will take place at Arlington’s Globe Life Field. The Divisional round begins on Monday, October 5th and ends on Saturday, October 10th, again without days off in between games.
The Championship Series will also be bubbled. The ALCS will take place in San Diego, and the NLCS will be played in Arlington. The LCS round begins on Sunday, October 11th and ends on Sunday, October 18th. Again, there will not be off days in between each game of each series.
The World Series begins on Tuesday, October 20th, and will be held in Arlington. Unlike the previous rounds of the playoffs, the standard off days *will* occur throughout the World Series. Here’s the full schedule of games.
- Game 1: Tuesday, October 20th
- Game 2: Wednesday, October 21st
- Game 3: Friday, October 23rd
- Game 4: Saturday, October 24th
- Game 5: Sunday, October 25th
- Game 6: Tuesday, October 27th
- Game 7: Wednesday, October 28th
Games 5-7 are, of course, if necessary.
As for the TV assignments, game times are (of course) still a question. Seven of the eight Wild Card series will air on ESPN, while the remaining one airs on TBS. TBS will also air all of the ALDS and ALCS games this season, while Fox has the NL package this year and will be airing the NLDS and NLCS (minus a couple games on MLB Network), with most of those games likely landing on FS1. The World Series will air on Fox proper.
Now the fun part: what about conflicts with other sports, particularly the NFL? Great question.
The NBA Finals is scheduled to start on September 30th, the day of eight (yes, eight) Wild Card playoff games. Game 2 of the Finals is scheduled on the same day as four if needed Wild Card elimination games, while Game 3 will face no MLB competition. Game 4 will be played on the same day as four Division Series matchups, and a potential Game 5 would be matched up with two potential Game 4 DS games and two potential Game 5 matchups. If the NBA Finals goes to six games, it’ll be on the same day as the start of the ALCS in San Diego, and a potential Game 7 will be on a day featuring Game 3 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the NLCS. So of the seven potential NBA Finals games, as tentatively scheduled, only one (Game 3) faces the potential of no MLB competition.
Over at the NHL, the schedule for the Stanley Cup Final is still up in the air, though it was rumored to be starting on September 20th. If the Islanders can push the series to seven (or even six), maybe it won’t start until later. Regardless, it appears there will still be conflicts with the Wild Card round of the MLB Postseason.
Switching gears to college football, kickoff times of many games are still up in the air. MLB catches a break with an off day on October 3rd, the date of a pair of top ten SEC matchups (Texas A&M-Alabama and Auburn-Georgia). October 10th features a pair of potential NLDS Game 5s, and that’s a loaded Saturday for college football. The schedule consists of Miami-Clemson, Tennessee-Georgia, Florida-Texas A&M, Virginia Tech-North Carolina, Florida State-Notre Dame, and the cherry on top: Texas-Oklahoma on Fox, home of the National League playoffs this year. ESPN also has college football airing nationally on the 7th, 8th, and 9th to potentially siphon away some more viewers. The network also has four mid-week games from October 14th-16th, and October 17th (home of a potential ALCS Game 7 and NLCS Game 6) features a one-two punch of LSU-Florida and Georgia-Alabama (along with four other ranked vs ranked matchups). Game 4 of the World Series falls on October 24th, and right now, the college football schedule is looking pretty thin: Alabama-Tennessee, Oklahoma-TCU, and Georgia-Kentucky are the standout matchups.
And then, there’s the NFL. Here are the NFL games taking place on the first three Thursdays of the MLB Postseason.
- October 1st: Broncos vs Jets (NFL Network)
- October 8th: Buccaneers vs Bears (Fox/NFL Network/Amazon)
- October 15th: Chiefs vs Bills (Fox/NFL Network/Amazon)
Needless to say, those last two games will probably end up being troublesome for MLB.
Here are the NFL games taking place on the final three Sunday nights of the MLB Postseason, though only the first Sunday is guaranteed to have a game.
- October 11th: Vikings-Seahawks
- October 18th: Rams-49ers
- October 25th: Buccaneers-Raiders
That actually doesn’t appear to be all that bad for MLB, though an NLCS Game 7 featuring the Dodgers going up against the Rams would probably hurt NBC more than MLB.
As for Monday Night Football, only two Mondays will feature MLB Postseason games this fall: October 5th and 12th. The first MNF matchup is Falcons-Packers, and the second is Chargers-Saints. So when it comes to Mondays, it also looks like MLB got off somewhat easy.
All in all, MLB’s Postseason schedule has its flaws, but it seems like the league dodged a major NFL-shaped bullet in its scheduling. But given the overlap with the NBA Finals and college football, it still might be a slog to attract viewers this October, even with the expanded Postseason.