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.