clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB’s playoff proposal: Bad idea or worst idea?

Rob Manfred’s messing with the game again.

Al Yellon

In their seemingly never-ending quest to ruin the game of baseball as we know it, MLB’s honchos are apparently considering adding four (!) teams to the postseason and livening up the style of how they’d play the games as follows:

The division winner with the second-best record would select its wild-card opponent from the three wild-card winners not hosting a series.

The division winner with the worst record would then choose its opponent from the remaining two wild-card teams.

The final matchup would pit the wild-card winner with the best record against the wild-card team not yet chosen.

All of the selections, sources said, would be unveiled live on television the Sunday night of the final regular-season games.


The best team in the league would receive a bye into the division series. The two remaining division winners and the wild-card team with the best record of the four would each host all games of a best-of-three series in the opening round.

That’s for both leagues, incidentally. So what we’d wind up having is six three-game series going at once. Try making out a TV schedule for that. Also, this would almost certainly result in a reduction of the regular season, as adding a three-game series where only single wild-card games now reside would lengthen the postseason into November in almost every season.

Also more than likely, this setup would eliminate regular-season tiebreakers, since there wouldn’t be time for any of that. I would guess that teams would be slotted based on some version of tiebreakers like the other pro sports leagues use, in other words head-to-head, divisional record, league record, etc.

One reason this is bad — if I’m reading this right — is that it would force two division winners to play a best-of-three series. It’s possible, given how wild card teams stack up, that a wild-card team with a better record than a division winner gets to sit out that best-of-three round.

I would have liked to write up all the reasons why this is a terrible idea, but Craig Calcaterra has taken care of that alread at Hardball Talk, so let me quote from his article from earlier this morning.

First, look at the quality of teams that would have been “postseason” teams over the last 10 years under this scenario:

2010: an 82-win team makes the postseason
2011: an 81-win team makes the postseason
2012: an 83-win team makes the postseason
2013: an 81-win team makes the postseason
2014: two 79-win teams tie for a postseason spot
2015: two 83-win teams make the postseason
2016: a 79-win team makes the postseason
2017: three 80-win teams tie for the postseason
2018: three 82-win teams tie for a postseason spot
2019: an 84-win team makes the postseason

Yikes. That’s four teams with losing records in the postseason over the last 10 years, and the rest are filled with mediocrity. (Incidentally, the 84-win team that would have made the postseason in 2019 under this scheme isn’t the Cubs. It’s the Red Sox — the additional N.L. teams in under this scenario would have been the Mets and Diamondbacks.) Here’s a chart showing the records of the seventh-place (worst possible) team in this scheme since 2001.

Further to this point:

But beyond all that, here’s the next big problem:

It would allow a team that appears to be headed for about 80 wins or so — what we now call a losing team — to stand pat and say, with a straight face, that they think they’re a playoff contender. It would give total license to 85-86 win teams to stand pat or even shed salary as they’d stand a very good shot at the postseason each and every season. It would create zero incentive for the 86+ win teams to turn into 90 or 95-win teams as such a thing would be pretty pointless.

Oh, and in case you think this isn’t about money, it is. Not because of extra TV games, but because, as Craig writes:

If you’re a general fan of baseball you should hate this proposal because it would render the regular season far less meaningful and would render the postseason even more of a crapshoot. If you’re a fan of a specific team you should hate this proposal because it would give license to your team’s owner to serve you a substandard product year-in-year out. If you’re a player you should hate this because it would strongly encourage teams to spend less on players than they already do.

Good morning, good afternoon, good night. This is a bad proposal on its face and the apparent reasons behind it are worse.

This is probably just a trial balloon, thankfully. I don’t think the owners or Rob Manfred actually believe that a postseason setup like this would actually get the approval of the players union (and it would have to, in the next round of collective bargaining), and that this is being floated just to see the reaction. Well, they got it. Pretty much everyone hates this, and here’s one reaction from a current player:

Trevor Bauer can be controversial and I don’t always agree with his takes. This time, though, he’s spot-on.

There are ways to tweak the postseason so that it’s not dependent on single wild-card games that can send 95+ win teams home in October, and the idea of having the top-seeded team getting its choice of opponent isn’t necessarily bad. But also keep this in mind:

But MLB has thrown just about every bad idea about the postseason into this proposal and said, “Here, try this on for size.” It doesn’t fit. Back to the drawing board, Rob Manfred.


The new baseball postseason format proposal...

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Great idea
    (40 votes)
  • 11%
    Bad idea
    (60 votes)
  • 12%
    Worse idea
    (67 votes)
  • 65%
    Worst idea
    (338 votes)
  • 2%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (14 votes)
519 votes total Vote Now