MLB, NBA, and NFL starting to make moves in possible returns to action
Let’s make one thing clear: actual games in any of the four major American sports are far, far away.
That’s not pessimism; it’s just being realistic.
But now that realism is out of the way, let’s spend the rest of this piece looking at the bright side. As various states begin easing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, it is time to ask ourselves: just how far is “far, far away”?
If nothing else, it at least may not as far as it was a month ago or even a week ago. Nothing is certain during these unprecedented times, but three of the four major sports have started to make some positive strides this week.
Sources reported on Wednesday that in the coming days Major League Baseball will present a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players’ Association. Under a best-case scenario, players would be instructed to prepare for a “spring” training in early or mid-June and a regular season beginning in early July. It remains unclear what the proposal could like in terms of number of regular-season games, playoff format, and division alignment.
It would be understandable if this hint of optimism inspires wagering on a possible 2020 MLB season. And there are plenty of futures odds available if it does, in fact, take place. The Los Angeles Dodgers are +375 favorites to win the World Series, +140 to win the National League, and -750 to win the NL West. The Atlanta Braves are a distant +750 second choice in the NL. On the World Series front, the New York Yankees (+450) and Houston Astros fall in behind the Dodgers.
Also on Wednesday, the NFL announced protocols for the gradual reopening of team facilities. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams indicating that the process would begin with various staff members being allowed at return to work followed eventually by players. Additional hope for a 2020 campaign will come in the form of the much-anticipated schedule release on Thursday. It will be standard schedule, although the league is also stressing that contingency plans are being made in case the pandemic interferes to the extent that fewer—if any—games are played.
The Kansas City Chiefs are +750 favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions, with the Baltimore Ravens coming in next at +800. The New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all +1200. Speaking of the new-look Bucs, they are -280 to make the playoffs and +140 to win the NFC South. Tom Brady is +1200 to earn NFL MVP honors.
As for a league with a season currently in progress, the NBA is also making some headlines. Team facilities starting to open up this week and an all-player conference call hosted by commissioner Adam Silver and Players Association executive director Michele Roberts will take place on Friday. The call will provide an open forum in which players can voice any questions, concerns, comments, etc.
If there ends up being some ball, concern for every club other than the Los Angeles Lakers will turn toward the question of how to stop LeBron James and company. The Lakers are +210 favorites to win the NBA title. The Milwaukee Bucks (+275) and Los Angeles Clippers (+300) are next, with no other team anywhere close (the Boston Celtics are +1200).