Opinion: Manfred Proposes a Playoff Restructure
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsThis piece will summarize the proposal and then include some subjective commentary on how it could impact baseball. After reading, I look forward to hearing what you think and what ideas, if any, you have on a possible restructure.
So let's start with a quick bullet point summary of the proposal:
- Increase playoff teams from five to seven in each league, which introduces two additional Wild Card teams.
- The team with the best record in each league will receive a bye to the Division Series.
- The Wild Card Series would be a three-game series where all games take place at the home of the teams with the best record.
- The division winner with the second-best record would choose who they play of the three lower Wild Card teams.
- The division winner with the third-best record would choose who they play of the two remaining lower Wild Card teams.
- The last two Wild Card teams remaining will play each other.
- There will no longer be Game 163s... the tiebreaker at the end of the regular season will be their head-to-head record.
- There will be a “selection show” on the last day of the regular season where teams will pick in a reality TV-esque show.
Needless to say, I don’t like expanding the playoffs even more as it takes away some of the meaning of making a playoff appearance. Furthermore, by expanding the playoffs I think you encourage teams to remain complacent. If you decide to truly “tank” you’re not going to be vying for one of the last Wild Card spots even with the expansion. On the other hand, if you are an average to slightly above average team expected to win ~85 games, you now have the opportunity to appease your fan base by “making the playoffs” without feeling the pressure to add an expensive or high-impact piece. Oh, and owners get the added financial benefit of playing at least two extra games without the payroll commitment.
All that said, I love the rest of the proposal. You don’t need to expand the playoffs to allow the top division winner to choose their opponent. Strategically, a team might decide to play the best team available right away while they know the health of their players or if they feel they match up better against the team.
That’s one aspect of the proposal I would change: Why does the division winner have to choose from one of the Wild Card winners? It wouldn’t be completely crazy to see one of the Wild Card teams actually have a better record than the third-best division winner. While you’re at it, give me an hour-long selection show special for some added drama.
I wouldn’t hate to see the current one-game playoff change to the proposed best-of-three series where the Wild Card team with the better record hosts all three games. Anything fluky can happen in one game, so that’s not a great measure of who is truly the better team. And if the losing team puts up a respectable fight in the series, I’d even consider crediting them with a playoff appearance.
What do you think of the proposal? Does it deter tanking? Would you make any changes to the current structure?
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