The new postseason proposal would be terrible for fans and for the game

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Yesterday someone at Major League Baseball leaked a new postseason idea they have brewing for 2022. The upshot: wild cards would be eliminated, there would be seven playoff teams in each league, up from five, and from there the format of the postseason would radically change.

Since it was a leak and not some official announcement, there was no one from Major League Baseball spinning it. Thankfully for the league there is no shortage of national baseball writers who are happy to do the spinning for them. I won’t point out anyone specifically — I’ve been told I’m rude for doing that, and I’m not feeling particularly rude today — but know that the spin basically goes like this: “this is great as it gives more teams a shot at the postseason, which in turn will generate excitement, and of course now that the postseason is more attainable for teams, it will serve as an anti-tanking device.”

Which is all wrong, of course.

To increase the value of something — to make it more special and exciting — one does not increase the supply. That’s basic economics. Since money can be dreary, let’s think of it as ice cream. I love ice cream. Ice cream is awesome! If someone gave me ice cream all the damn time, however, it would be less awesome. It would become everyday and mundane and, in fact, I’d probably be happy to forego ice cream once in a while.

That’s more of a personal opinion, of course. Maybe some of you would like ice cream every day. I won’t speak for you. Just know that the quality of your ice cream would probably suck a lot more if you got it more often. By way of example, let’s look at the quality of the playoff ice cream we would’ve gotten over the past decade if the proposed postseason system were in place:

  • 2010: an 82-win team makes the postseason
  • 2011: an 81-win team makes the postseason
  • 2012: an 83-win team makes the postseason
  • 2013: an 81-win team makes the postseason
  • 2014: two 79-win teams tie for a postseason spot
  • 2015: two 83-win teams make the postseason
  • 2016: a 79-win team makes the postseason
  • 2017: three 80-win teams tie for the postseason
  • 2018: three 82-win teams tie for a postseason spot
  • 2019: an 84-win team makes the postseason

As it stands now, the worst team to make the postseason in a non-strike-shortened year was the 2005 Padres who won the NL West with 82 wins. The worst World Series-winning team was the 83-win Cardinals in 2006. They’re seen as aberrations now, but under the proposed rules, teams of that quality and worse would be playing October baseball every year. Given how baseball sees far more variation in short series situations than other sports we would, without question, have 95+ win teams getting bounced out of the playoffs most years, rendering the regular season far less significant and turning the postseason into a tournament that is increasingly unconnected to the previous six months of baseball.

Maybe you like that. If so, good for you. But I can tell you a group of people who should not like it: the players. This is because, contrary to what some of those national writers are saying, the new postseason format would not discourage tanking. It would encourage it.

It would allow a team that appears to be headed for about 80 wins or so — what we now call a losing team — to stand pat and say, with a straight face, that they think they’re a playoff contender. It would give total license to 85-86 win teams to stand pat or even shed salary as they’d stand a very good shot at the postseason each and every season. It would create zero incentive for the 86+ win teams to turn into 90 or 95-win teams as such a thing would be pretty pointless.

People talk about tanking in terms of the current Detroit Tigers or the Houston Astros of a few years ago. Teams happy to lose 100+ games for draft position or whatever. The more pernicious aspect of tanking, however, is what the Red Sox are doing. Or what the Indians have done for the past couple of years. When teams who, by all rights, should be going for it are declining to go for it in order to save money on payroll. As it is they’re doing things like trading Mookie Betts, considering trading Francisco Lindor and declining to make offseason acquisitions which might take them to the next level over some pretty harsh criticism and in way that creates fan apathy. If you make 80-83-win teams “playoff teams” every year, you incentivize such behavior in a pretty significant way.

Which is to say that the proposal is one aimed at depressing salaries every bit as much if not more than it’s aimed at “creating excitement” or “shaking things up.” Indeed, I suspect that’s the real idea behind this. I suspect it’s a proposal with an eye on upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

If you’re a general fan of baseball you should hate this proposal because it would render the regular season far less meaningful and would render the postseason even more of a crapshoot. If you’re a fan of a specific team you should hate this proposal because it would give license to your team’s owner to serve you a substandard product year-in-year out. If you’re a player you should hate this because it would strongly encourage teams to spend less on players than they already do.

It’d be good for the owners and for the league’s bottom line. That’s pretty much it. And that’s nowhere near enough.

Follow @craigcalcaterra



Rutschman has five hits in opener, Orioles outlast Red Sox 10-9

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – The last time Adley Rutschman recalls feeling this level of emotion on a baseball field was playing in front of intimate, 5,000-seat crowds in college at Oregon State.

He trumped that experience at Fenway Park on Thursday in his first career opening day start.

“This blows that out of the water,” Rutschman said.

Rutschman became the first catcher in major league history with five hits in an opener, and the Baltimore Orioles survived a wild ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-9.

“To have that close game in the ninth inning and the crowd get so loud. You kind of sit there and say, ‘This is pretty cool,’” said Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Rutschman – who debuted for the Orioles last May and quickly became indispensable to the young, resurgent club – homered in his first at-bat and finished 5-for-5 with a career-best four RBIs and a walk on a chilly day at Fenway Park, with a temperature of 38 degrees at first pitch.

Ramon Urias hit a two-run homer for Baltimore, which finished with 15 hits, nine walks and five stolen bases.

Kyle Gibson (1-0) allowed four runs and six hits over five-plus innings to earn his first opening-day victory since his 2021 All-Star season with Texas. Gibson gave up an RBI groundout in the first inning before retiring nine straight Red Sox hitters.

The Orioles nearly gave the game away in the ninth.

With Baltimore leading 10-7, closer Félix Bautista walked pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia. Alex Verdugo followed with a single and advanced to second on an error by center fielder Cedric Mullins.

Rafael Devers struck out. Justin Turner then reached on an infield single to third when Urias’ throw was wide, scoring Tapia. Masataka Yoshida grounded to shortstop Jorge Mateo, who stepped on second for the force but threw wildly to first, allowing Verdugo to score.

Bautista struck out Adam Duvall on three pitches to end it and earn the save.

The Orioles scored four runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to take an 8-2 lead. Baltimore led 10-4 before Bryan Baker allowed three runs in the eighth to give the Red Sox some hope.

The eighth could have been even better for the Red Sox had Devers, who led off the inning, not become the first player in major league history to strike out on a pitch clock violation. Devers was looking down and kicking debris off his cleats when umpire Lance Barksdale signaled a violation that resulted in strike three.

“There’s no excuse,” said Alex Cora, who dropped to 0-5 in opening-day games as Boston’s manager. “They know the rules.”

Boston offseason addition and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (0-1) struggled in his Fenway debut, surrendering five runs on six hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

“Less than ideal,” Kluber said. “Didn’t turn out the way I would have hoped for.”


Red Sox: Christian Arroyo stayed in the game after taking an inadvertent cleat to the side of his head in the second inning. Arroyo was applying a tag to Rutschman at second base as he attempted to stretch out a single. Rutschman’s leg flipped over as he slid awkwardly. … LHP James Paxton was placed on the 15-day inured list (retroactive to March 27) with a strained right hamstring.


Rutschman, one of six Baltimore players making his first opening-day appearance, became the youngest Oriole to homer in his first opening-day at-bat since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1984.


The Orioles took advantage of MLB’s bigger bases – going from 15- to 18-inch squares – that are being used for the first time this season. Baltimore hadn’t stolen five bases in a game since last June 24 against the White Sox. Mullins and Jorge Mateo swiped two bags apiece, and Adam Frazier got a huge jump on his steal against reliever Ryan Brasier. There was nothing Boston catcher Reese McGuire could do to stop them and on the majority of Baltimore’s steals, he didn’t bother to throw.


Right-hander Kaleb Ort and Tapia earned Boston’s final two roster spots to open the season. Tapia got the nod over Jarren Duran, who was sent down to Triple-A Worcester. Ort pitched a scoreless sixth with one strikeout Thursday.


Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer will make is sixth career start against Boston when the three-game series resumes on Saturday. In 11 road starts last season, he went 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA.

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale, who has pitched in only 11 games over the past three years due to injuries, is set to begin his seventh season in Boston.