Well, well, how about this for a little off-day discussion. I’ll let Baseball America sum it up before discussing:
There seems to be a building consensus that baseball will soon be headed to a 32-team configuration…https://t.co/Hy8iq5ygYi
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 16, 2017
HELLO. 32 teams.
Before we even read, the implications should swirl in your mind, as they probably have for many years now. With 32 teams, MLB could follow the NFL’s configuration (if they were so inclined) to have four divisions of four teams in each league, and the postseason could be expanded to include two additional Wild Card teams (maybe TWO winner-take-all games? and a couple byes? could that even work?). Interleague play would also no longer strictly be necessary to accommodate the schedule.
OK, so now that I’ve settled myself a bit, I can read the report, and you should, too.
Tracy Ringolsby presents the possible approaches to 32 teams, for which there is “building consensus” to expand. One he suggests is actually four divisions of eight teams, which sounds a lot less compelling to me, to be honest, because I don’t love the potential diminution of importance in winning the division (which would go down if there were more playoff teams, but fewer division winners, unless you made the other playoff teams all play sudden death games (as Ringolsby suggests), and that just seems like way too much to me, and extremely un-baseball).
In any case, expanding to 32 teams would allow for a much more uniform and fair schedule, albeit one reduced to 156 games. Players would get additional rest, and the season could end a little earlier than it does now.
Further, if there were significant geographic realignment with the new divisions, the travel burdens on players (especially out West) would be reduced.
This is all very hypothetical at this point, though I do think we’re moving towards 32 MLB teams within the next however many years. The particulars will probably be discussed for a good long while in advance of expansion, so it’s at least possible those conversations will start soon.
If there were expansion to 32 teams, how would you want to see things align? How would you want to see the postseason work?
Me, shooting from the hip at night during an off-day of the NLCS?
Give me eight four-team divisions, and try to preserve as many current AL/NL teams as possible. The Cubs could play in the National League “North” with the Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates or Reds.
For the postseason, the division winners all get a spot, plus there are four Wild Card teams. Those four play in two Wild Card Games (one game elimination), and the winners face the two lowest-seeded division winners for a five-game first round of the playoffs. The winners of those series go on to the NLDS against the two highest-seeded division winners. You’d have to figure out a way to make that all go relatively quickly so that the two highest seeds aren’t sitting around for more than a week. Maybe the first round is just a three-game series?
In any case, I like the possibilities there. You have to figure out how to preserve divisional importance and also not overload the playoffs with so many teams that it becomes the NBA, and nobody cares about the regular season because ALL the decent teams make the playoffs.
This is fun to think about, if nothing else.