MLB expanded playoffs
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Which MLB teams will benefit from expanded playoffs?


With hours to go before the start of the 60-game 2020 regular season, the MLBPA agreed to the MLB proposal for expanded playoffs. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, the first round will feature best-of-three series. ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that the first- and second-place teams in each division would qualify and the remaining two teams would have the best records among the remaining nine teams in each league. Also, per Olney, top-seeded teams would will pick their first-round opponents in a televised show.

So which teams stand to benefit from this temporary change to the postseason structure? Looking at the projected standings from Baseball Prospectus, here’s what the postseason would have looked like with no changes:

AL Wild Card: Indians vs. Rays
ALDS 1: Yankees vs. Indians/Rays
ALDS 2: Twins vs. Astros
NL Wild Card: Cubs vs. Mets
NLDS 1: Dodgers vs. Cubs/Mets
NLDS 2: Reds vs. Nationals

And here’s what it would look like now (some assumptions made):

ALDS 1: Yankees vs. White Sox
ALDS 2: Astros vs. Angels
ALDS 3: Twins vs. Indians
ALDS 4: Rays vs. Athletics

NLDS 1: Dodgers vs. Braves
NLDS 2: Nationals vs. Cardinals
NLDS 3: Reds vs. Mets
NLDS 4: Cubs vs. Diamondbacks

The new format introduces more teams and a shorter first round (the NLDS is usually five games), thus there will be more volatility. This is bad for elite teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, and Twins, and good for everyone else. Teams that would have otherwise been watching the postseason from home are obviously happy about this change, which would include fringe teams like the Braves, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Red Sox, White Sox, and Angels.

The playoffs already had a ton of variance; the team with the best record rarely won the World Series. The Nationals, for example, won the World Series last year as one of two Wild Cards from the National League. They went 93-69 during the regular season, finishing four games out of first place. They defeated the Dodgers, who won 106 games, in the NLDS. The new playoff format will allow for even more variance. Thus, it would not be surprising to see a No. 8 seed win it all.

Perhaps the most important question of all is: will winning a championship in 2020 be seen as legitimate compared to previous seasons? There’s no objectively correct answer. People value different criteria for different reasons. But, objectively, a shorter regular season means that the best teams aren’t always winning their divisions. An expanded playoff pool with shorter first-round series means that the best teams aren’t always advancing. While the league is likely to uphold the results of the 2020 season as equal to those of previous years, players and teams will be subjected to claims of luck, both good and bad. Those will, as always, be colored by rooting interests and other individual biases.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.


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