It seems nowadays that every professional league is looking at new ways to grow the game. The NBA is considering regular season and postseason changes, the NFL is considering adding another game, and now the MLB is getting involved in the fun. Rob Manfred and the MLB have presented an idea of expanding the playoff field from 10 to 14 teams.
As you could guess, the idea was met with some pushback. The most notable voice against the expansion came from Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer who said on Twitter:
No idea who made this new playoff format proposal, but Rob is responsible for releasing it, so I’ll direct this to you, Rob Manfred. Your proposal is absurd for too many reasons to type on twitter and proves you have absolutely no clue about baseball. You’re a joke.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) February 11, 2020
I feel it may be hard to say the commissioner of baseball has zero idea about it, but I get the outrage. I am not a huge fan of the idea either, because baseballs playoffs have always had a lure of exclusivity. In looking at the playoff landscape across the four major professional sports in the U.S. it breaks down as NHL and NBA have 53% of their league make the playoffs. That's right, to make the playoffs in those leagues you have to be average to subpar. Not that special. The NFL is a bit better with only 38% of the league making it. The MLB though, only has 27% of it's league make the playoffs. This all after a 162 game season. It's a haul, but to be one of the 5 teams from the AL and NL is special. That is why I, like Trevor, am not in favor of the move.
The proposed expanded playoff idea would go as follows. The team with the best record in each league would receive a bye and go straight to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card with the best record would each host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. Meaning the bottom three wild card teams would have zero home games.
The division winner with the second-best record in a league would get the first pick of its opponent from those lower three wild cards, then the other division winner would pick, leaving the last two wild cards to play each other.
The MLB is doing this to try and get fans more involved by giving more teams a shot at the World Series. The more teams involved in a playoff hunt means more money. That is usually what these expansions are for, it's a cash grab. Especially when the other parts of the proposal are to have a reality type tv show for the playoffs. Yes, you read that right. They want it to be like a March Madness type show where the top seeded teams choose their opponent for the 2nd round. I have an idea, and it might seem crazy, but what if they just had the lowest remaining seed face the highest seed? An absolutely insane thought, I know.
Then there is the players health aspect of this idea. Pitchers would be used even more than they are already. In the new idea the playoffs would go 3 game series, 5 game series, 7 game series, 7 game series. Now, that is obviously with all the series going the distance, but if you're a teams No.1 pitcher that is an extra 2-3 games you may have to put your arm through. Teams in postseason play also seem to shorten their bullpen depth and use a core group of 4-5 guys. An expansion means more work for them and strain after appearing 70-80 times in the regular season. It just overall doesn't make sense.
In the end, the expansion will probably be approved even if the players don't love the idea. The fans will be split. Fans like me will want to keep the exclusive nature of the MLB playoffs. Plenty will be happy to see their team as the 3rd, 9th, or whatever wild card it will be. Then in about 10 years no one will even remember the 10 team playoff. That's just the nature of it all.