Major League Baseball’s playoff format last underwent seismic changes entering 2012, when it expanded the postseason to allow four wild-card teams into the tournament instead of two. Things have stayed the same since then, but further adjustments may be in the offing.
Beginning in 2022, the first season after the current collective bargaining agreement expires, commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB could add two more playoff qualifiers per league. That means almost half of the sport (14 of 30 teams) would have some chance of reaching the World Series when the fall rolls around. But that’s not all – MLB would hand the No. 1 team in each league a first-round bye, the higher-seeded teams that don’t have byes would select their first-round opponents and those clubs would play three-game series in one city.
On one hand, an expanded playoff setup would likely encourage more teams to make an effort to compete. There are arguably too many franchises that haven’t pushed hard enough to grab playoff spots in recent years. It could also increase television ratings and ticket sales, as clubs that might normally be out of the race late in the season would have more realistic shots at getting to October. Those are all good things from the league’s perspective.
On the other hand, there’s a case that a 14-team postseason would reward mediocrity and further water down the playoffs. In most cases, these six and seven seeds aren’t going to be juggernauts. Back in 2017, for example, the Royals and Rays would have made the tourney with 80-82 records. It’s extremely unlikely, but imagine a sub-.500 team going on a magical run in the fall and winning the whole thing. That would perhaps make a mockery of the six-month regular season. Although, of course, we don’t know how these potential changes would affect the regular campaign. It’s possible the schedule would switch to fewer than 162 games (a total that has been in place for both leagues since 1962) in order to accommodate a longer postseason.
All said, there are pros and cons to an increased group of playoff teams. Where do you stand on the subject?
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