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.
Matt Spiegel of 670 The Score Chicago heard from a source that Major League Baseball executives have been discussing a 100-game season that would begin on July 1 and conclude on October 15. It would essentially pick up the second half schedule, eliminating the All-Star Game while hosting the World Series at a neutral warm-weather stadium — ideally Dodger Stadium.
In the event the Dodgers, who won 106 games last year, made it all the way through the playoffs, the World Series would be hosted in Anaheim or San Diego. The earlier rounds of the playoffs would be played in the cities of the teams involved, which might be tough since the postseason would extend into November.
Spiegel went on to describe this vision as “an absolute best case scenario,” and that’s accurate. In order for the regular season to begin on July 1, the players would need to have several weeks if not a full month prior to get back into playing shape — more or less an abbreviated second spring training. And that would mean the U.S. having made significant progress against the virus by way of herd immunity or a vaccine, which would allow for nonessential businesses to resume operations. The U.S., sadly, is faring not so well compared to other nations around the world for a variety of reasons, but all of which point to a return to normalcy by the summer seeming rather unlikely.
Regardless, the league does have to plan for the potential of being able to start the regular season this summer just in case things really do break right and offer that opportunity. Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated multiple times about the league’s need to be creative, referring to ideas like playing deep into the fall, changing up the location of games, playing without fans in attendance, etc. This rumor certainly fits the “creative” mold.