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MLB’s ‘Plan’ Didn’t Pan Out

We begin this week with baseball again, although not in the way that we had hoped. In light of the news that more than a dozen personnel of the Miami Marlins have tested positive for COVID-19, we examine what went wrong (traveling in big groups across state lines is probably not a great idea right now), what structures need to be in place to prevent this from happening again (maybe don’t let the players and coaches decide if they want to play?) and what the team outbreak means for other major sports leagues (grab your bubble wand, NFL). This might not be the tipping point for baseball — or for any other sport, really. But it’s a warning again for how easily the virus can spread out of control and wreak real havoc on teams, leagues and individuals. You know, like a virus.

Next, we travel to the Great White North, where the NHL is set to play a postseason tournament at two hub locations; the Eastern Conference will form a bubble in Toronto, the Western Conference in Edmonton. There were definitely going to be teams disadvantaged by hockey’s unconventional postseason restructuring: a round robin for playoff seeding among the top four teams in each conference and best-of-five elimination series among the other eight teams. The odds for who will actually hoist the Stanley Cup haven’t changed that dramatically since March — the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning are all still the favorites. But hockey can get weird, and we’re excited to see if, without any kind of home ice advantage, a No. 8 seed can make a deep run through the playoffs. Whatever happens, the NHL seems to have positioned itself to put on an entertaining show this year — and to draw in new hockey fans who might be excited for the release of, say, a legendary, ship-devouring cephalopod in 2021.

Finally, Sara brings us a Rabbit Hole of extra innings and unearned stats. While she starts off talking about how starting with a runner on second in the 10th inning has already proved embarrassing (especially for Shohei Ohtani), the team dives into examples across sports of players being credited for something they didn’t do. From offensive players getting credit for a defensive own goal in hockey to rim tip-ins in basketball, there are apparently lots of different ways to fail upwards in sports.

What we’re looking at this week:

  • What led the Marlins to play the Phillies after players tested positive.
  • Why the NFL may want to reconsider starting a bubble.
  • How the NHL is changing the look and feel of hockey games.

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.