Commissioner Manfred has said MLB has been contemplating changes to playoffs. The idea would be to increase the number of teams to 7 per league. The three division winners would get in along with the 4 best record teams otherwise as wild cards. The top division winner would get a bye to the division series. The other two division winners and the wild card team with the best record would each host a three game wild card series—every game at the host city. Next comes how the matchups for those wild card series are made because it’s not just straight up seeding. That would make too much sense. Nope. There would be a selection show on TV. The #2 division winner would choose whichever of the three non-host wild card teams they want to play. The last division winner for each league would then pick one of the last two wild cards, and the final wild card team would be hosted by the top wild card team. My first thought was that would be some ridiculous reality TV there. Trevor Bauer, never one to mince words, called Manfred a “joke” who doesn’t understand baseball.
i try not to be that rude, but I’m finding it hard to not sympathize with Bauer’s viewpoint. 14 teams in the playoffs. Almost half. Isn’t it awesome how at least two NBA Eastern Conference teams with losing records will be in the basketball playoffs this year? In fact, every team above .400 will be in.
So what would that have caused last year’s playoffs to look like?
AL: Astros get a bye. Yankees, Twins, and A’s host wild card series. The Rays are still a wild card team. The Indians get in. The Red Sox get in. No other AL team had a winning record. It wasn’t particularly close; everyone would have known who the playoff teams were going to be long before the season was over. ..very much cheapening the regular season.
NL: The Braves get a bye. The Dodgers and Cards host wild card series. The Nationals host a wild card series. The Brewers are still a wild card. The Mets and Diamondbacks squeak in. The Cubs and Phillies become the only two MLB teams at/above .500 to not make the playoffs. Barely. Oh, the excitement.
if this travesty were to come to fruition, it’d start in 2022. After the next CBA is signed. In other words, it’s something the players would have to agree to. The silly reality TV selection show plus making the wild card round best of three almost certainly means November baseball every year unless the regular season is shortened or there are more double headers. MLB would be interested in this to try to up the bidding on the national TV contracts, which are expiring after the 2021 season. I don’t see this being something really moving that needle much, especially at the expense of other games being available. I called this “spitballing” and Manfred does do that a lot, but the CBA also ends in 2021. This could well be a poison pill, an intentionally obnoxious idea that he knows the players will hate—as so eloquently expressed by Trevor Bauer—so that they will have to negotiate to keep it from happening and thus conceding something else…like maybe pitch clocks.
Whether Manfred is a joke is debatable, and maybe so is whether he understands baseball…but the players better understand he is not stupid and virtually always has an alternate purpose behind his spitballing.