This is a continuing series examining some of the things Jayson Stark of The Athletic says could, or will, happen in baseball during the 2020s.
Thursday, I took a look at what might happen to MLB’s 162-game schedule over the next few years. Many think it could be reduced, to as few as 154 games.
Some of you posted thoughts in the comments about what might happen to the playoff structure of MLB with expansion, realignment and a schedule reduction.
Stark writes that part of the point of reducing the schedule would be to expand the postseason:
Once you get to four divisions in each league, the next logical step is a postseason format that looks a lot like the NFL’s:
* Six playoff teams in each league – four division winners and two wild cards.
* Then the two teams with the best records in each league get byes, while the other two first-place teams host the wild-card teams in the wild card round.
So what would that wild card round look like? Not the way it looks now! No way baseball would drag actual division winners into a one-game, win-or-go-home format. That’s a sure formula for rebellion against all of this.
One idea that’s gaining traction? A best-of-three series in which all three games would be held in the home park of the higher seed (in this case, the four first-place teams). But under any format, it would still be a priority to make sure teams had massive incentive to win their division — by rewarding them with byes and/or significant home-field advantage.
With 32 teams, 12 postseason teams wouldn’t seem to be too many. The NHL, with 31 teams, sends 16 to the Stanley Cup playoffs — and every round is best-of-seven! Same with the NBA, 16 of 30 go to the NBA postseason, with all rounds being best-of-seven. Of course, those leagues can do that, with arenas that can host games year-round. You can’t do that in Major League Baseball — you’d wind up with baseball for Thanksgiving, and much of North America is unforgiving weather-wise by then.
But if MLB did reduce the season by, say, a week, there would be room for those best-of-three series. I like the idea of making the wild-card teams play the entire series on the road. That gives a real incentive to win your division, and also, division winners have that same incentive to keep winning after they clinch a postseason spot to try to get a first-round bye.
The schedule reduction and expanded playoffs go hand-in-hand. You can’t really have the latter without the former. And, of course, MLB would make a lot more money with an expanded postseason than they would in losing a week’s worth of regular-season games. Perhaps the postseason could begin around the same time it does now, and the regular season could start a week later, reducing the amount of bad weather teams have to play in northern cities.
I’m pretty much on board with this. It gives more teams a shot at a title, while still rewarding the best teams with byes and/or larger home-field advantages.
And who knows? Maybe it’d result in another Cubs scene like the one at the top of this post.
Regarding the MLB postseason...
This poll is closed
Expanded playoffs with 12 teams sounds good! I’m in!
I like it the way it is now, with 10 teams in the postseason
There are already too many MLB playoff teams, there should be fewer, and fewer rounds
Something else (leave in comments)