When the current MLB Lockout ends, it looks like the postseason will expand to include a larger amount of teams. Let’s talk about what that might look like.
Firstly, if you have not read my article discussing the lockout, I suggest you start there.
In the current format, 10 teams make the Major League Baseball postseason. It has been this way since 2012, when a second Wild Card team was added to each League.
A 10-team playoffs is much less than the other four major American sports leagues, with the NBA having the most playoff teams at 16. The NFL expanded to 14 for the current season.
It seems like the 16-team playoff bracket used in 2020 for the shortened MLB season has had some influence on both the owners and the players. This heavily benefitted the Houston Astros.
There are two rumored expanded postseason scenarios for baseball.
The players have proposed a bracket with a total of 12 teams, which would have two division/ highest seed winners and four wild card teams (would require division realignment into only two divisions per league, or a top seed format similar to the NBA).
While not a huge change, this could mean two different things: either they have four total winner-take-all Wild Card games, or they have four best of three series (basically a whole new round).
Personally, I think expanding to four winner-take-all games would be great for the sport, whereas a whole new round of best-of-three’s would be horrible for it (just look at the first round of NBA Playoffs). The two division/highest seed winners would get a bye into the divisional round.
The owners, on the other hand, want a 14-team postseason, with three division champions and four Wild Card teams.
However, they want a Wild Card round with best-of-three series, which in my opinion just is not a good idea. The top seeded division winner would get a bye, with the other two having the ability to pick their Wild Card opponent.
Let’s get this in the open first: the MLB Playoffs are perfect, and should not be expanded. The players already have to get through a grueling 162 game season, followed by anywhere from 26 to 43 postseason games (for a World Series participant).
The 12-team playoff isn’t horrible, as long as its implemented correctly. If the Wild Card games are kept as a winner-take-all, it adds an NFL Playoff atmosphere, and will draw more tv viewership.
If this is not the case, and they go with a three game series, no one will watch it. On the other side, the 14 team proposal makes no sense, and would water down the competitiveness, as sub .500 teams could now sneak in as a Wild Card somewhat frequently.
It also will probably lead to a lot of one sided games, as the Division Winners would be allowed to pick their Wild Card Opponent. Time will tell whether they get this right.
The MLB viewership is hot right now, and players like Shohei Ohtani are the reason for this. In order to keep this growth, the league needs to avoid a lockout, while also getting the expanded playoff correct. Don’t screw this up, Manfred.