Major League Baseball owners want expanded playoffs.
How do I know this for sure? Because last spring, MLB and ESPN signed a seven-year rights extension that includes postseason games that don’t yet exist:
The deal will include 25 weeks of Sunday Night Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic, Opening Night and the Home Run Derby. If MLB expands to eight playoff series in 2022, ESPN will carry the entire schedule. The network currently carries one of two wild-card games.
So, clearly, the reason for the expanded postseason is money. MLB obviously would make more money with an additional round, likely best-of-three series.
My purpose here is not to debate or discuss the format of an expanded playoff field, which would likely include 14 teams instead of the current 10.
Instead, I want to demonstrate how such a field would devalue the regular season.
If we had had a 14-team postseason field in 2021, seven teams from each league, we would have had the following teams added to the 10 that did make it.
National League: Reds (83-79), Phillies (82-80)
Do those two teams look anything like postseason teams? The Reds were actually tied for the first wild-card spot after splitting a doubleheader with the Cardinals September 1. They went 11-16 after that. Even the Cubs were better over that span (12-16). The Reds now appear to be tanking. Is that what the league wants from a postseason team?
Meanwhile, the Phillies stood only a game out of first place in the weak NL East after defeating the Marlins 12-0 on September 6. They went 11-14 after that. It’s the third year in the last four (and the short 2020 season is the exception) where the Phillies have finished either 80-82, 81-81 or 82-80.
Are these the sorts of teams MLB really wants in its postseason? Would you have wanted to see one of them knock off the Dodgers or Giants?
American League: Blue Jays (91-71), Mariners (90-72)
Here we have a different issue. These two teams both won 90 games and, in fact, had better records than the eventual World Series champion Braves.
But if we had that 14-team postseason tournament MLB moguls have been dreaming about, all the drama of the final week of the 2021 season involving the Jays, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox would have been eliminated, since all four teams would have qualified. Oh, sure, there might have been desires to win games to try to get home field for the best-of-three series those teams would have been involved in, but that doesn’t have nearly the impact of “win or stay home for October.”
So this scenario devalues regular season games. If more teams get in, sure, there’s a bit more excitement for those additional ballclubs who might have a chance to do what the Braves did in 2021. But fewer regular-season games would be important. This is what happens now in the NBA, where 16 of 30 teams make the postseason — many individual regular season games simply don’t have much impact because a team can (and many have) make the postseason with a losing record. And that’s going to happen in MLB if they expand the field to 14.
I know I’m probably whistling in the wind here. MLB’s going to get its 14-team playoff tournament, and as a result the regular season could wind up shortened by a week or so — otherwise the World Series is going to be pushed back to mid-November. There’s too much money involved for MLB owners NOT to have this.
Lesson: Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
This poll is closed
... is just fine the way it is
... should increase to 14 teams
Something else (leave in comments)