CHICAGO (670 The Score) – Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, who serves as his team’s union player representative, has a good understanding of the challenges that will lie ahead for clubs as they compete in an MLB playoff bubble in Texas and southern California come October.
So much so that he compared one part of the health protocols in the environment to a zoo.
“If you look at some of the protocols, there’s some wording in there (about) having to ask for permission to go on a walk," Happ said. "That feels more like a zoo animal than a baseball player or human ... There’s a lot of those challenges that guys are going to face.”
Such is life when competing amid the coronavirus pandemic and with MLB knowing it can’t afford to have an outbreak and health problems during the playoffs, which have expanded to a 16-team format. MLB and the MLB Players’ Association have been hashing out strict rules and regulations that players and any family members who join them will have to follow.
"To ensure everyone's safety and protect them from traveling all over the country, that is the right thing to do,” Happ said. “It’s the best way to get the playoffs in. As long as the league is accommodating, it’s what everyone is dealing with. There is no home-field advantage for either side.
“There has been a lot of back and forth between the two groups. Families were a big concern. Obviously, guys being OK with how their families will be accommodated and taken care of is important. You never want to leave people behind. That has been one thing consistent in this journey for all of us this season. Part of it has not been able to see our loved ones and do what you want in a regular season.”
National League teams will compete in Houston and Arlington, Texas after the best-of-three wild-card round series. American League teams will compete in San Diego and Los Angeles after the wild-card round, with the World Series then being held at the new Globe Life Field in Arlington as well.
Holding a five-game lead in the NL Central entering play Wednesday, the Cubs will play at Minute Maid Park in Houston or Globe Life Field in Arlington if they advance past the wild-card round, where the top four seeds in each league will host the entire series. With teams not having to travel as much, there also won’t be any off days between games during the wild-card round, divisional series and league championship series.
“The schedule in the playoffs where there are not any off days is more like the regular season,” Happ said. “I don't have an issue with that, but it’s more on the pitchers and pitching situations. We are just excited about playing baseball and get to a position we can be a part of those protocols.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.