Possible changes to MLB postseason are hit and miss
Major League Baseball needed a diversion. Something to get our minds off the filthy Astros and the reinstatement of Pete Rose.
So. Did you hear about the potential playoff changes?
According to a report in the New York Post, MLB officials are contemplating a complete postseason overhaul that could go into effect as early as 2022. Here are the juicy details:
1. The postseason would expand to include 14 teams. The field would feature three division winners and four wild cards in each league.
Reaction: Until 1995, MLB had no more than four playoff teams in any season. This would represent an increase of 10 playoff berths in less than three decades. This a blatant money play designed to command heftier TV rights fees in the near future. This completely mocks the meaning of a 162-game season, a marathon grind that is no longer needed to weed out the unworthy.
2. There would no more one-game playoffs.
Reaction: Good. One-game playoffs are an affront to everything baseball stands for, where teams can play relentlessly for six months only to be eliminated in a single afternoon, shut down by an ace pitcher, sent packing by a bad bounce.
3. The best team in each league gets a first-round bye. The other 12 teams will engage in best-of-3 series’.
Reaction: A novel concept that will keep elite teams playing hard in September. Except the teams with the best records risk losing their edge. The No. 1 seeds will be granted 4-5 days of full rest, and that’s not always a good thing for a calibrated pitching staff. Or hitters who were locked in at the end of the season. There’s a fine line between rust and rest, and the best teams could be punished under this system.
4. The remaining two division winners in each league handpick their playoff opponent. They choose from a pool of three wild cards with the worst records. The second-best division winner gets the first choice. The third-best division winner picks from the remaining two wild cards.
The leftover wildcard team is then redirected to play the wildcard team with the best record.
Reaction: Genius. Imagine the built-in drama that comes with choosing your opponent. It will be live reality television and the ill will created by choosing one’s opponent will be palpable.
Imagine the press conferences, where players and coaches can no longer deny who they really want to face in the postseason. It’s all there, for everyone to see. Players and teams claim they are being disrespected, and for once, no one will roll their eyes.
This is a home run premise, especially in an era of 24/7 trolling and trash-talking between teams, players and fans.
The timing of the leak is suspicious. With the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues set to open their clubhouse doors, it appears as if MLB needed a new narrative, something breezy for reporters to chew on in the early days of spring training. This will help divert the attention.
In Florida, there will be much attention given to the contrition of the Astros, if any real apologies are forthcoming. Same with the Red Sox, and how one of the richest teams in the sport traded a generational player to avoid paying a luxury tax. The mood of the Yankees will also be an issue, a team that feels most cheated by Operation Codebreaker.
In Arizona, it will be if the Dodgers can win 120 games, and if an All-Star team made up of other Cactus League outfits would be a match for the super team in Los Angeles.
Most of the overarching stories are not good. They’re about asterisks, stolen championships, a clubhouse code that makes a rat worse than a cheater, and players who went unpunished for badly damaging the integrity of the game.
Oh, and a former player (Mike Bolinger) who is now suing the Astros for damaging the arc of his career, a player who claims the Astros cut his career short with their filthy cheating.
Reaction: On Monday afternoon, Bud Selig was trending on Twitter. That will tell you what most people think of this new playoff proposal, as well as Rob Manfred’s tenure-in-progress during yet another MLB scandal.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.