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As MLB/MLBPA talks resume Sunday, a topic will be the ‘ghost win’

Are you in favor of this playoff idea?

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MLB and the MLB Players Association last met in a formal session last Tuesday, when talks broke off and some regular season games were cancelled. Top negotiators for both sides met Thursday to determine the course of negotiations and now we have an answer to that:

What’s going to happen at that meeting?

All right, that’s pretty detailed. Who will be at today’s session?

This session will take place in New York. No time has yet been announced. One other thing that’s been put out there this morning that seems important:

Beyond all that, one of the major topics of discussion Sunday, I am certain, will be a 14-team postseason. This is something MLB has made it clear that they want, as they are in line for $100 million extra per season from ESPN if the network can televise additional postseason series with those extra teams. The players have already agreed to add two teams to the existing postseason lineup, making 12, but have resisted efforts to go beyond that.

One of the things that’s been floated by players as a possible idea for a 14-team playoff is the “ghost win,” something MLB has been against. Here’s how the ghost win would work, as described here by Jesse Rogers of ESPN:

Under the postseason plan the union has discussed but is undecided whether to propose, the higher seed would be home for all games and need two wins to advance, while the visiting team would have to win three times.

A team with the first-round bye would be off at least five days, possibly complicating starting pitcher plans, and the fans of the lower seed in the opening round would not have any home games. In addition, MLB does not like that the “ghost game” would not generate broadcast rights fees.

“The 14-team format MLB originally proposed offers significant advantages to division winners and provides incentives to win at every level of the bracket,” MLB spokesman Glen Caplin said Saturday. “In an effort to compromise, MLB accepted a 12-team format after the discussion of formats including a ‘ghost game.’ MLB made clear that the ‘ghost game’ raises serious issues and is not a viable path forward.”

I have to be honest here — this is a player proposal I cannot get behind. The postseason is where wins should be the most meaningful. Having a system where one team has to win fewer games to advance seems to go against all notions of fairness, not to mention upsetting a playoff structure that’s lasted for more than 100 years.

The idea, obviously, is to give a team with a better record a better chance to advance. I understand that, but still am not in favor of it. Max Scherzer, who is on the players’ eight-man executive committee, explains further:

“Working with the economists on the union staff, we felt like we had devised a format that you would incentivize competition throughout all the season, especially for division winners,” Scherzer said. “We didn’t see that that solely home-field advantage was going to be the necessary piece to try to go out there and win your division.”

Without the “ghost win” format, Scherzer said “a 12-team format made more sense to us.”

Pitcher Andrew Miller, also a member of the union’s eight-man executive committee, said Scherzer’s thoughts on the postseason carry weight within the union.

Beyond my previous objections, I believe the players lose a lot of leverage if they agree to any 14-team postseason. In my view, 12 teams should be enough. That would still be the fewest of any of the four major sports, and if MLB does then go ahead and expand to 32 teams within the next decade or so, it wouldn’t be that large of an addition. Here’s the whole thing summed up in two tweets:

So the whole thing’s probably DOA, just in case you think I’m reflexively pro everything the players want. To be clear: The players supporting the ghost win is because it theoretically makes the postseason “fairer” by giving the higher-seeded teams an advantage and MLB wants a random postseason to make the idea of teams spending more pointless. But I’d like to know what you think.


The MLB postseason format I would prefer is...

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    The 10-team format used now
    (145 votes)
  • 28%
    12 teams
    (79 votes)
  • 4%
    14 teams with the "ghost win" system
    (12 votes)
  • 8%
    14 teams without the "ghost win" system
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (22 votes)
281 votes total Vote Now