The 2020 Major League Baseball season has been one like no other. We’ve seen the season shortened to only 60 games due to the pandemic, a runner starting on 2nd base in extra innings, 7-inning double-headers, and plenty of other changes. But there’s been one major change this season that has been the most controversial: expanded playoffs, in which 16 of 30 teams advance to the playoffs. Do you like them, do you dislike them?
I think expanded playoffs are alright for the 2020 season because we, as fans, get to see more baseball being played, to make up for the lack of regular-season games played. This move was made to give Major League Baseball more money as they lost plenty of it this year due to the lack of in-stadium revenue, like tickets and concessions. MLB always generates tons of revenue during the postseason, so expanding them in a season that cost them the big bucks, was no surprise.
Beyond 2020, I’m not a huge advocate of having 16 teams out of 30 make it to the postseason. What’s the point of having a 162-game season if over half the league is going to play in October? I love the thrill of the wildcard game, and the tight postseason races down the stretch to see who will clinch that last seed. With expanded playoffs, that goes away to some extent because 8 teams per league make it in and the races are not nearly as close this year as they were last year.
Another flaw with expanded playoffs is there are several teams at or below .500 playing October baseball. For example, the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a .509 record, and the Cincinnati Reds, who sit at exactly .500 as of September 21st, hold the 7th and 8th postseason spot, respectively. With the usual 10-team postseason format, these two teams would have been out of the picture a while ago. Assuming they hold their postseason, spot, and get to play in the postseason, their matchup wouldn’t be particularly intriguing. Currently, the Dodgers and Reds are lined up to play in the first round. Not exactly the most fun matchup, right? With last year’s format, the Dodgers would be playing the Padres or Marlins, who would face each other in the Wildcard Game. Now that’s a good matchup.
With that being said, it certainly does bring interest to cities like Miami, who hold the 5th seed, as the Marlins have not been to the playoffs since 2003. This is good for the game that needs to expand its audience. It gives the fans of teams like the Marlins, Reds, Blue Jays, and many more the excitement of being in a Pennant race, which is good for the fans of those teams and the teams themselves, of course.
Whether or not you like the expanded postseason format or not, it may be here to stay. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has suggested the expanded playoffs might be present after 2020. Manfred mentioned that he liked the 2020 postseason format, especially the best of three series, to begin the postseason. As mentioned earlier, Manfred likes the fact that having more teams in the playoffs allows more markets to be engaged with baseball. Also, Morosi mentioned that if MLB expands to 32 teams, as they want to in the future, having 16 teams out of 32 provides an even number.
Morosi also stated that he does not believe there are major roadblocks to its approval. This is because, typically, whenever there are issues with changing the game, both the League and the Players Association are on different sides. However, with the expanded playoffs, both are on the same side, as both sides can benefit financially.
With 16 teams making the playoffs, more teams believe they have a shot at winning the World Series, which would increase team spending on free agents in a time where the free-agent market has been very quiet and slow. Morosi strongly believes that all these reasons will result in expanded playoffs in 2020 and beyond.
Whether you like expanded playoffs or not, it seems like the Players Association and Major League Baseball will benefit from having 16 teams make the postseason. This results in more markets being engaged, more teams spending money and the game growing more. Get used to it, because it looks like expanded playoffs are here to stay.