As with any and all things CBA negotiation related, you’ve got to exercise emotional and analytical caution. The information that comes out – well-intentioned as it is from reporters who are just trying to do their job in a tough spot – is often intentionally leaked for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent. The info is also often one-sided or limited or colored in a certain way. So you definitely take all you can get, but you have to not get too wrapped up in any one thing. Just take it all in and think about things globally.
I give you the big caveat on this one because I understand that this is the kind of report that has the potential to get people really riled up and/or excited:
Sources: As the two sides look to jump-start the CBA talks, the union has approached MLB with an offer to re-open talks on the 14-team postseason field, with the idea it can exchange this for more flexibility on the CBT numbers and other issues.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 4, 2022
Hearing from sources on both sides of the CBA talks that they are hopeful that a renewed discussion of the 14-team playoff field could be a potential breakthrough — for talks that need a breakthrough.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 4, 2022
Interesting timing in those reports, I think, and I like that the second one mentions sources on both sides. Olney heard what he heard initially, and then it kinda looks like some folks reached out, which made his wording even stronger. So that’s interesting. Kinda makes me think that not only is this legit, but maybe it’s the players who are readying a 14-team proposal (with significant owner gives on the other side). It could be a way for the players to find out just how much the owners truly want 14 teams.
It has been reported that the TV financial difference for the owners between 12 and 14-team playoff models is only on the order of $15 million a year, which sure doesn’t seem like enough to be blowing this whole thing up. I tend to think that means either that the number is much higher in reality and has been misreported or miscalculated, or there are a lot of owners who want 14 teams for more cynical reasons (i.e., then it’s easier to “compete” for a playoff spot without spending aggressively). There’s probably something to both things, and also a third explanation: having more teams in the postseason means more fan bases have the opportunity to be engaged for longer in the season (which, yes, means more potential money for the owners, but it also has the potential to mean more fun, in the aggregate, for fan bases).
From my perspective, I think 14 teams out of 30 is too many. It might be that this is a precursor to expansion to 32 teams, at which point 14 out of 32 becomes MILDLY more tolerable. But in the meantime, I just don’t like the idea of nearly half the teams getting into the postseason. I think most fans agree. (Also, a warning: this could be a precursor to a shortened season down the road, too.)
You could sell me on a 14-team model ONLY where the format STRONGLY rewards the best teams in the regular season. For example, if you aren’t getting a bye, you need to get a HUGE first round advantage if you won your division. I want those division races to MEAN SOMETHING for the playoffs. That is a significant part of the fun for me.
Michael just tweeted a REALLY EXTREME version of what I’m talking about, and although this is a little more extreme than what I was thinking, it certainly would make winning your division critical:
This makes it VERY important to be a division winner (or top WC team), because sweeping a playoff team on the road in three straight is extremely difficult.
But if you win your division, you just need to not get swept at home to move onto the NLDS.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) March 4, 2022
A couple reaction thoughts, though: while the league might like the idea of every game in the opening round being a potential clincher, I’m not sure it will want Wild Cards to be so un-valuable. Teams would not spend at all to get those slots, and certainly wouldn’t make any trade or promote big prospects early or whatever to clinch a Wild Card spot.
Me? Gut says I’d go something similar to what Michael is saying, but instead of the top team needing only one win to take the series, they should need two. The underdog still needs to win three. (This is the “ghost win” concept by another name, since if you use the word “ghost” people freak out. But other leagues already do this, and also, what is a “bye” if not a “ghost series win”?)
Anyway, please don’t get too bogged down in the details right now. This is far from a lock to happen anyway, and the format is probably going to be tinkered with wildly. The only important thing from my perspective is to say: *IF* they go to a 14-team playoff, there better be a HUGE incentive still baked in for winning your division.
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