- Major League Baseball began their truncated 2020 season on July 23, 2020.
- MLB games have attracted strong TV ratings and betting handle.
- A spate of positive coronavirus tests have forced the cancellation of 17 games in ten days as of Saturday, August 1.
For Major League Baseball, the truncated 2020 season has so far been a mixed bag. The usual metrics of success are looking very strong with TV ratings surging. In a typical season, baseball betting is an afterthought at most sportsbooks but this year business is booming. Even without fans in attendance, the 2020 MLB season could be very good for the sport as they’re able to expose the product to wider audience hungry for live sports coverage.
Now the bad news–the decision not to follow the NHL and NBA in a protective ‘bubble’ is for now looking very dubious. As of Saturday, there have been 17 games postponed due to the coronavirus in 10 days. Multiple reports have indicated that in a Friday phone conversation Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred gave an ominous warning to MLBPA head Tony Clark that if players don’t do a better job following COVID-19 protocols that he could shut down the season. Manifred walked back this position somewhat on Saturday:
“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.”
As of Friday, 29 MLB players and staff have tested positive. Manifred’s conversation with Clark on Friday has been characterized as not so much a reading of the riot act but a frank discussion of what needs to be done to complete the 2020 season.
SPORTSBOOKS SEEING STRONG BETTING HANDLE ON MLB ACTION
Historically, Major League Baseball has not been a huge moneymaker for sportsbooks. In a typical year, many recreational bettors go into hibernation following ‘March Madness’ and return near the start of the pro and college football seasons. This is anything *but* a typical year, however, and bookmakers are looking forward to what might be the biggest August ever for sports betting. William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich told the Las Vegas Review Journal that if all goes well August will be the biggest ever with the NBA, NHL, UFC, PGA Tour and NASCAR all running simultaneously:
“If the NBA and NHL and baseball don’t get canceled, it will be. I’m staying positive and hope they all finish.”
Once again assuming that all goes well September could be even bigger according to Westgate Superbook director John Murray:
“You could theoretically have the NBA and NHL playoffs going on with the NFL. The Kentucky Derby is on Labor Day Weekend. It could be the busiest September ever.”
William Hill’s Bogdanovich told Matt Youmans at VSIN that bettors are responding to the return of sports including baseball:
“Betting is through the roof. Baseball is strong, and let’s hope it stays that way.”
The Westgate’s Murray understands the concern about baseball’s COVID-19 issues but is trying to stay positive:
“Baseball is the sport everyone is monitoring right now. I’m optimistic about it personally. We’re hoping for the best.”