Empty Minute Maid Park as MLB is the betting favorite to return to action

MLB Favored To Be First Major Sport To Return To Action

Flash back to Wednesday, March 11, when the Utah Jazz were set to tip off against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The game was suddenly called off after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first domino to fall in a series of postponements that eventually led to a complete shutdown in sports in North America.

Now, three months removed from that incident, it appears there is some light at the end of the tunnel as far as returning to a new normal and having daily sports back in our lives. The UFC was the first promotion to return to action, followed shortly by NASCAR, but which of the four major sports will take place first?

Online sportsbook Sportsbook has listed MLB as the most likely to be the first to take the field of play at -110 followed by the NHL and NBA, both at +200, and the NFL rounding out the oddsboard at +750.

Betting Odds for Which League Will Return First
League Odds
MLB -110
NHL +200
NBA +200
NFL +750

Odds as of June 2 at Sportsbook

See Odds Shark’s Best Betting Sites

Why Is MLB The Favorite To Return First?

We would be rapidly approaching the MLB All-Star Game right now had the pandemic not halted play. Baseball has been quite vocal in its desire to get teams back on the diamond. Early on, there were suggestions that play would return as early as mid-May with each team being housed in Arizona. Well, of course, that time has come and gone and we are still without play.

More recently, the league put together a proposal for a shortened 82-game season and an expanded playoff format. The MLBPA has since countered with a proposal calling for a 114-game season that would begin June 30 and run to October 31, including an all-star game and home run derby to drum up more revenue.

The league rejected that offer and is pushing for a shortened season. Additionally, the players proposed that their salaries be pro-rated for whatever the duration of the season would be while the owners want to pay less than a pro-rated salary because of no fans in the stands. This is the crux of the matter as we currently know it: money.

The CBA is set to expire December 1, 2021, and tensions have been rising as we near that date, with the players and owners seemingly almost as far apart as they were leading up to the MLB strike in the ‘90s. If they can’t come to some sort of resolution to salvage the 2020 season, it could go a long way in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Therefore, I think they are going to work hard to get on the diamond ASAP. Overall, the fact that the MLBPA put June 30 as a potential start date in its proposal is the reason MLB is favored to return to play before the other three major North American sports.

What Sport Do I Think Will Return First?

Although MLB is working hard at returning to play as it would be in the heart of the season right now, it may be the NHL that beats baseball to the punch. Throughout this pandemic, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated the NHL would have a conclusion to the 2019-20 season.

In late May, the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement for a return-to-play process in which play would resume with training camps leading into an expanded 24-team playoff format. Of the 31 teams, only Carolina and Tampa Bay voted against the proposal because their odds of lifting the cup would drop with additional teams in the mix.

The race to return to play from the NHL’s standpoint would be that it was agreed that training camps can’t begin until July 10. Assuming they do a two-week training camp, that would put the first game at perhaps July 24.

When it comes to the NBA, they voted on June 4 to return to training on July 9 in Orlando with games beginning July 31 and running until October 12. There will be 22 teams returning to action, playing eight regular-season games to finalize seeding for the playoffs. Playoff series will be the usual best-of-seven affairs en route to crowning the 2020 NBA championship.

Meanwhile, the last league on the list, the NFL, understandably has the longest odds to return first as Week 1 isn’t happening until mid-September. So hopefully it’s safe to say that the three leagues in the mix are the NHL, NBA and MLB.