The MLB Extended Playoffs Should be a One Time Thing

While taking in the first glimpse of baseball on opening night, many were shocked to hear the MLB’s newest announcement. The ten team MLB playoff would be expanding in this 2020 season to sixteen. This is the first change made to the playoff format since 2012, when the wildcard fixture was added.  That addition was loved throughout the league, as the extra team in both leagues upped the total from eight to ten, and also gave fans an extra game of playoff baseball just to make sure that the wild-card team deserved to be in the divisional series. Even with all the support from the last change to the format, this new one does not come without critics. This write-up will review why the expanded playoffs are good, but also the flaws within the new system. 

What is the New Format? 

The biggest change of the new postseason is the increase in the number of teams. Instead of five teams in each league, it becomes eight. Usually, there is a one game wild-card for the bottom two teams in the postseason, and the winner of that “play-in game” goes into the divisional series, which is baseball’s version of the “Elite Eight.” However, this year that one game wildcard round is eliminated altogether. There are still two wildcard teams along with the three division winners, but this year the second-place finishers from each division are also being added. That means this year there will be TWO third place finishers that will make the expanded playoffs. 

 The top seeds in each league will get to choose who they want to face in the first round, granting the lower seeds a little extra motivation for the first-round matchups. Now instead of an “Elite Eight” type playoff, it turns to the “Sweet Sixteen.” There will be a best of three wild-card series, all in the home teams’ ballpark. After that there will be the normal divisional round, championship series, and World Series. This shortened season will still end with one winner, but it will just be a brand-new way of finding that champion. 

The Best Parts of the New Playoffs 

There is one thing that every single baseball fan can agree is a plus for this new 2020 playoffs, and that is more games. Playoff baseball is the epitome of the sport, as the top teams battle it out for a single month. These expanded playoffs will be no different from that, except for the fact that there will now be more competitors gunning to win their final game of the season. And as March Madness shows us, sports are most exciting when there are lots of teams in the field competing. A huge advantage to having a bigger group of teams is the opportunity for more upsets. How awesome would it be to see the top team choose their opponent and still get beat by them? Casual fans think that baseball lacks excitement, and despite a few shortcomings, an expanded playoffs will bring the fire. 

The Shortcomings of the New Playoffs 

A huge complaint from many sports fans and even baseball fans is that the MLB regular season is too slow. Many think that there are just so many games that the regular season just gets boring and repetitive. I personally love the long season and think that the marathon is what makes the champion that much worthier of winning. This 60-game season will give those fans exactly what they are looking for, less games. Unfortunately, they combatted that by making more than half the league playoff eligible. There are 30 MLB teams, so having 16 of them make the expanded playoffs diminishes the meaning of each game. The short season had us thinking that every game was going to be the most important. But now you can finish third place in your division and still make the playoffs, lessening the pressure.

 Although I understand that it makes up for the lack of games in the regular season, the MLB playoffs are not meant to be huge tournaments with lots of teams, they are meant to be short, sweet, and only played with the elite teams in the league, not just the ones that are “pretty good.” 

Overall, I do like the new playoff structure, and I believe that it will work well in a 60-game season. There is talk that this will be a recurring format, and that is a decision that should not happen. This season is a sprint, and the playoffs will be a thrilling and exciting recap to that. My concerns extend to the future, but for right now, I am super excited to see how everything plays out.  

What are your thoughts on the newest playoff format implemented by MLB? Do you like the new MLB changes?

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