MLB

MLB’s reported playoff format changes draw intense reaction from players and fans alike

A reported change to the MLB playoffs format, including more teams and a selection show, has both baseball fans and players up in arms.

MLB is reportedly considering shaking up October. Less than a decade after introducing the second wild card, the MLB playoffs could be changing even more drastically in a couple years.

It was reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post earlier this week that MLB is “seriously weighing a move from five to seven playoff teams in each league beginning in 2022,” while also allowing the top-seeded teams to pick who they would face in the first round during a live TV  selection show. The 14-team playoff proposal would also include three-game series in the first round, all played at the home park of the higher seed.

Confused? Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci does a great job explaining it using last year’s American League playoff teams:

 “As an example with the American League last year, Houston would have earned a bye as the No. 1 seed. The Yankees, the No. 2 seed, would announce who they wanted to play from among Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Boston. Minnesota, the No. 3 seed, would choose from among the two remaining lower seeds. Oakland, the No. 4 seed, would play the remaining lower seed. New York, Minnesota and Oakland would be the host team for all games in those series.”

That would mean there would be three division winners, four wild card teams, with one team earning a bye and another deciding essentially the entire layout of the postseason.

It’s a bold idea and one that has drawn ire and praise from personalities around the game since Sherman’s report.

It was rather interesting that this news came out as more details were emerging about the Astros sign-stealing scandal, but this proposal isn’t just a PR tool. It’s a real idea that the MLB is attempting to implement, seemingly without really hearing the players’ side of things — so many took to Twitter to voice their opinions on the matter.

Hey Rob Manfred, Trevor Bauer – as usual – would like a word.

Bauer followed up with a video in which he continued to vent about the “frustrating” proposal.

Dodgers starter Alex Wood brought up another great point about undeniably rich ownership groups still refusing to sacrifice profit for an improved on-field product.

Former pitcher Dan Haren also pointed out that as other professional sports leagues like the NBA have lowered the bar for quality teams making the postseason it has caused the regular season to have less meaning with stars being rested more often.

Now, there are some clear reasons for the MLB to push for this change, one of them being money. Simply adding more teams to the MLB playoffs means more games to attend, watch or stream, and more fans interested in September and October baseball. I’m currently thinking of all the silly playoff merchandise I collected in my youth, random Cubs vs. Marlins 2003 NLCS shirts pop into my mind, and that’s easy money for baseball.

It does also make the baseball season more meaningful in the sense that more teams could be less inclined to rest players with the top-seeded teams getting a bye or deciding their opponent. It would hope to create more reasons for teams to spend, but I would argue, like Wood said, it could have the opposite effect.

These proposed changes have their merits and I’ll be honest, thinking about a live-TV broadcast of teams deciding who they’re playing and why would be interesting. Do you avoid your rival in the opening round? Do you stay away from the team with the best top-line pitching if it’s a three-game series to star?

Despite those strategic curiosities and potential for gripping TV, I don’t see how this improves the quality of the game and doesn’t lessen what winning a World Series championship means. Allowing more teams into the postseason further shrinks the likelihood of the best teams in baseball playing each other in the World Series.

It’s not impossible for a team like the Giants, who went on an incredible run right before the trade deadline last year, to get hot right before the playoffs and make it in as a wild card. That’s a fun story and the fan base would love it, but what happens when that team cools off in the postseason? Will it really be as great of TV as MLB is hoping?

The Nationals made a magical run last year from the wild-card game to a World Series title, but even they had to play great down the stretch in the regular season and come up with multiple gutsy performances in the postseason to get there. Do we want teams who were even further out of the picture over the course of 162 games to have a shot at the trophy?

We love the MLB playoffs for their unpredictability, but ultimately we want to see a deserving champion crowned.

Lets solve the issue of teams refusing to pay players, like Mookie Betts, what they’re worth and maybe handle the issues with minor league baseball before deciding to change something that nobody was really complaining about before this announcement.

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