An article by Joel Sherman in the New York Post brought up the idea of a potential change to the MLB Postseason format. Such a move would be a significant deviation from the current format. The change has some interesting aspects. But can also represent a massive change from the norm. So we look at the proposed amendment and my thoughts on the suggestion.
The proposal has the number of teams increasing from 5 teams (currently) to 7 in total for each league. A “Bye” would be earned by the team with the best record (or the top seat.) The remaining six teams would also be seated by records. And play in a best of 3 series at the home ballparks of the upper seats. And in descending order of wins, would be able to select their Wild Card Round opponent. They would be able to choose their opponent???
The example given in the article uses last season’s AL playoff bracket. And the Astros by virtue of the best record would receive a Wild Card Round bye. The Yankees, Twins, and A’s would then get to choose their opponents from the list of Rays, Indians, and Red Sox.
My Thoughts on Changes
The idea of changing the game of baseball is usually met with mixed emotions and reactions from fans. Some fans hold steadfast to some of the older, more antiquated “ideals” like “No DH in the NL.” While some fans embrace the changes and champion “modernizing” the game. I believe that there is a balance that must be achieved to best outfit the game of baseball for all fans. Thus some changes are needed to help advance the game forward. While other changes can feel like change for the sake of change. Those types of pointless changes hurt the game in the long-term and call into question the decision-makers.
5 or 7, Which is Better?
During the initial reading of Joel Sherman’s article, the thought crosses my mind about the implications for baseball long-term. How would these extras games and the additional series affect postseason teams? And the more that I thought about the change, the more I felt like it was a change for change’s sake. It felt as if this was a move for advertisers rather than a move for fans of MLB. Rob Manfred and the MLB executives have made some changes that have helped, but I’m not sure this was a positive idea.
Would it be Positive?
After deliberating for a few hours on the idea and thinking about what it would mean for the game, I came up with a few pros and cons. Adding another two teams to the playoff hunt would offer a few positive changes. First, more teams could and would have more extended opportunities to stay in the postseason hunt. Thus this change would lead to fewer teams “Tanking” because they will be much closer to a spot. Secondly, as someone that only watches baseball, when the season is over, there is a long time to wait for me until baseball returns. To quote Rogers Hornsby, “People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
The third way this could be a positive change for MLB is the main reason they would make the switch. It comes down to money, more advertising opportunities, and more networks bidding to air the games on their platform. And the fourth reason this could be a positive change for MLB is that it gets people speaking about the sport. MLB has done a poor job in marketing itself to younger audiences. And an even more inadequate job allowing their greatest commodity to display itself, the players. This change could give teams and players a better opportunity to showcase their talents. The best player in the game, Mike Trout has only been to the playoffs once in his career. But if this playoff style was already in place, Trout would have played in five postseasons. And the Seattle Mariners who currently have an 18-year postseason drought would have made the playoffs seven times since 2001 (presently last playoff appearance.)
The Negative Aspects
Anytime changes of this level of significance are made, there will be unforeseen and unintended consequences. Just look at replays and how many petty little calls are challenged by clubs in an attempt of “gamesmanship.” Changing the playoff format will give clubs the option to choose their opponent can serve for the strong to beat up the weak. Six times, since 2010, would there have been a team, at or below .500 to make the postseason. In the AL, the 2011 Blue Jays with an 81-81 record and the 2017 Angels and Rays with 80-82 records each. And in the NL, 2013 Diamondbacks with a record of 81-81, the 2014 Mets at 79-83, and the 2016 Marlins with 79-83.
The other negative aspect was also a part of the positives, and it’s about the money. This idea and potential change is about making MLB more money from tv/streaming networks and ad revenue. It isn’t about the growth of the sport or even the inclusion of more potential teams vying for their postseason hopes. The old adage rings true that the love of money is the root of all evil. And MLB’s decision to monetize everything was honestly a short-sided maneuver. Just as Gary Vee.
Will This Happen?
The answer to this is as complicated as the premise of the idea. There are levels and layers to making a change like this happen. First, the MLB Player’s Association and the MLB Owner would have to come together on a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement.) The new CBA is set to be negotiated in 2021, and it will be a tumulous situation. But this will likely be one of the proposed changes in that agreement. (Along with the DH in the NL.) MLB and the MLBPA have enjoyed a long peaceful time since the 1994-95 strike. But the upcoming negotiations are likely to get ugly and even threaten a lockout. (Something MLB can not withstand again, in my opinion.)
This new format will give teams, fans, advertisers, tv and streaming networks, and even the players more opportunities. More opportunities to capitalize while having the brightest lights on for MLB. I would venture a guess that if Joel Sherman, a well-respected reporter, has published this piece, there is likely a lot more than just smoke.