The MLB has expanded the postseason to 16 teams instead of 10 teams this year, in an
Playoffs will begin with a best-of-three wild card round, with matchups based on seeding, before proceeding into the traditional best-of-5 and best-of-7 playoff formats for the Division and Championship Series. The playoffs will take place across 4 neutral sites, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Arlington, and Houston. Teams from those areas (Padres, Dodgers, Astros) will play at other sites.
The playoff expansion makes sense in a shortened 2020 season. Upon a quick look at the
2020 standings and playoff picture, I would say approximately 6 of those American League
teams would be expected to be in the playoff picture in a full season, whereas maybe 5 or 6
National League teams in the current format would be expected to be competing for a playoff
spot in a full season. There have only been 60 games, which is an extremely small sample size
for an MLB season, so expanding the postseason would ideally fit all or most of the teams who
would normally be in the hunt for a postseason anyways. And, of course, there is the added
benefit of recouping monetary losses from the fan-less regular season.
But expanding the playoffs in future years to fit more teams – assuming that we have a
full season in 2021 and beyond – is ridiculous. There is no reason to expand the playoffs because we know that over 162 games, the teams that are in playoff spots at the end of the year truly deserve to be there. Expanding the playoffs to include mediocre teams (like it has this year) is silly.
One of the main reasons I’m opposed to the postseason change is the NBA’s playoff
format. The NBA has had a 16-team playoff format since the 1983-1984 season. Since then, #1
seeds have won 69 out of 74 first-round series against #8 seeds. Do we really need to see the
Rays and the Dodgers (and every future #1 seed), two clearly superior teams, walk right past the Blue Jays and the Brewers?
And if MLB wanted to expand the postseason to make sure that all these extra playoff
teams got in (it was more about the money, but for argument’s sake here), why did they make the formats so short for the Wild Card Series? Any team can win a 3-game series with a couple of lucky bounces. The format just incentivizes the “let’s be average and hope we get lucky!” team-building approach. The expanded format won’t tell you who the best teams are.
You may be saying – “Well, that approach to team-building was encouraged by the Wild
Card Game,” and I disagree. That one wild card game gains you entry into a full division league series. Not a first-to-two-win series. And you need to be one of the best teams in your league to get to the Wild Card Game in the first place, not just above .500.
Expanding the playoffs for the monetary gain makes sense. But in a regular, 162-game
season, there is no reason to have all these extra teams participate. We already know who the
good teams are. The Wild Card Game exists to give those teams that play in a division with a
behemoth (like the Dodgers) to still have a chance. There’s no need to blow it all up so that the
crumbling Astros can bow out to the Twins or so that the Phillies’ sorry excuse for a bullpen
could have been paraded out for 2 more games against the Dodgers.
It just encourages mediocre teams to try to squeak their way in when they have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it past a team that deserves to be there, instead of trying to build a real contending team. And adding in all these extra games at the expense of the players, who are getting zero days off in between games, is going to make the playoffs feel like a chore, rather than something electric and exciting.
Keep it at 5 teams per league.