Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Major League Baseball is planning radical changes to the playoffs to begin in 2022. The changes, summarized:
- Seven playoff teams in each league, up from five
- Team with best record in each league gets first-round bye
- Two division winners and best wild card team host best-of-three series against bottom three wild cards
- Division winner with second-best record gets to pick first-round opponent from three wild cards
- Division winner with third-best record gets to pick first-round opponent afterwards
MLB would host a reality TV-esque show on the Sunday night of the day the regular season ends in which teams select their playoff opponents. Sherman likens it to the NCAA selection show.
Unsurprisingly, the motivation for this change has a lot to do with enticing broadcasters for a new TV deal. The changes would add more games of intrigue late in the regular season and the shorter playoff series would increase the importance of each game.
As Sherman mentions, the MLBPA has to sign off on this for the changes to take effect. The suggested changes do, on the surface, get more teams into the mix which could allay the union’s concern over the increasing rate of tanking across the league. That being said, increasing the playoff field to 14 teams is almost half the league. As The Athletic’s Tim Britton points out, the 2014 Mets — who went 79-83 — would have been a playoff team under this system. At a certain point, teams wouldn’t even have to feign trying to be competitive and could still luck into a playoff berth and hoist that banner proudly while still slashing payroll.
At any rate, we’re all going to be talking about this for a while, which helps divert attention away from the whole Astros thing.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted a proposal to the league concerning the 2020 season. The proposal includes a 114-game season with an end date on October 31, playoff expansion for two years, the right for players to opt out of the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason were to be canceled.
Passan clarifies that among the players who choose to opt out, only those that are considered “high risk” would still receive their salaries. The others would simply receive service time. The union also proposed that the players receive a non-refundable $100 million sum advance during what would essentially be Spring Training 2.
If the regular season were to begin in early July, as has often been mentioned as the target, that would give the league four months to cram in 114 games. There would have to be occasional double-headers, or the players would have to be okay with few off-days. Nothing has been mentioned about division realignment or a geographically-oriented schedule, but those could potentially ease some of the burden.
Last week, the owners made their proposal to the union, suggesting a “sliding scale” salary structure. The union did not like that suggestion. Players were very vocal about it, including on social media as Max Scherzer — one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee — made a public statement. The owners will soon respond to the union’s proposal. They almost certainly won’t be happy with many of the details, but the two sides can perhaps find a starting point and bridge the gap. As the calendar turns to June, time is running out for the two sides to hammer out an agreement on what a 2020 season will look like.