As part of the “hey, we’ll do whatever we can to play baseball” approach to this shortened MLB season, the league and its players are going to have to be open to the possibility that the regular season will be so short that an expanded playoffs will be extremely desirable.
That’s for two reasons: (1) with fewer regular season games to sort the wheat from the chaff, you might have to give more teams a shot in the postseason to get a good field; and (2) more playoff games could mean slightly better recouped revenue, because a lot of it is going to be lost this year.
To that end, as Jon Heyman notes, we could see something crazy like nearly half the league making the playoffs this year:
MLB may expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 this year. It’s been proposed for subsequent years but this could be the time to experiment. Would also be a way to add big games, boost excitement and yes revenue. Nothing close to final. Almost anything is on table.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 27, 2020
As MLB and the players look to this weird season as an opportunity to experiment in ways they might have wanted to experiment anyway, an expanded postseason makes a lot of sense. Remember, this just came out in February:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 10, 2020
Here’s what we said then:
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Major League Baseball is “seriously weighing a move from five to seven playoff teams in each league, beginning in 2022,” which, in isolation, is not so radical, given league expansion is probably coming, and the sport is trying to stave off further increases in competitive imbalance (i.e., more teams tanking because they aren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot). Three division winners, four Wild Cards.
We’ll get to how the seven teams would shake out in a moment, because I want to pause on the most radical part of the idea: According to the Post, as part of the new format, the team with the best record in each league would receive a first-round bye, but the next best division winner would get to pick their first round opponent from the bottom three Wild Cards. Then the other division winner would get to pick, and then the remaining two teams would play each other. There would be a TV event for the selections.
Basically, the top team in each league gets a bye, and the first round is a trio of three-game series, hosted entirely by the next best three teams, which would have selected their opponents. That’s how you get from 7 teams down to 4 for the next round of the postseason, which would likely look like the traditional LDS.
Frankly, I felt like I was one of the few people who kinda dug this plan originally, so I’m all for it if the season gets dramatically shortened this year. Let’s just see how it goes, since this year is going to be weird anyway, right?
Moreover, with expansion to 32 teams coming at some point in the future, you’re likely to see expanded playoffs anyway. Just saying, this weird year could be the launching point.