This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to, well, anyone who has paid attention to what Rob Manfred and the owners have been doing – but Manfred came out and said this week that he is looking towards keeping the Major League Baseball playoffs expanded in each league. He did note that he didn’t think it would remain at eight teams per league.

One thing at play here is that expanding the playoffs can’t be done on a whim. This would require the approval from the Major League Baseball Players Association. Expect them to try and use this to their full advantage, getting something in return for it that benefits them. What that could be – well, we’re going to have to wait and see.

In a season where there were only 60 games, it made sense to expand the playoffs a little bit. You aren’t entirely sure who the best teams are at that point – though as we look at the current World Series match up we do see the two teams with the best records in baseball playing each other. Over the course of 162 games you do have a pretty good idea of which teams are the best.

What another round of playoffs does, though, is make more money for teams and ownership. While I’ve been sitting around wondering just how long the sports tv bubble will last before it bursts, it apparently isn’t soon. Even within the last few months sports leagues have gotten large raises on their television deals and baseball is no different, getting a contract that was a 60% bump from the previous one for the playoffs. Making an extra round out of thin air just means more television money.

More money in the sport is good…. if that money gets shared with the players and other employees within baseball. As we learned once again this week, that isn’t exactly happening – the Cubs for example laid off over 100 employees. While I haven’t seen another team with a number as high as the Cubs, it’s been a trend over the last year as teams are looking to find places to save money anywhere possible – including eliminating multiple minor league teams that costs about 75 player jobs, 8-10 coaching jobs, and another 8-10 jobs between trainers and other gameday staff.

Adding additional teams to the playoffs without expanding the number of teams in the league can and likely will lead to problems. The easier it is to reach the playoffs the less chance you are going to have teams truly try to be the best team. Why try to build a 95 win team when you can get into the playoffs with 82 wins? That will likely lead to lesser money available to free agents as competition for their services will be a little more limited as getting from 85 to 90 wins won’t matter nearly as much anymore. Teams won’t feel that pressure to “get over the top”.

What this also does is make the regular season matter less. Baseball plays 162 games because you need a whole bunch of them to separate the top teams from each other. The margins are quite small in terms of talent between teams. Think of baseball in football teams. The NFL plays 16 games. Divide the MLB season up into 10-game chunks and you get a “16 game” season. In the NFL you have had teams go undefeated, teams go 15-1, 14-2, 13-3. In Major League Baseball if a team were go go 100-62, or 10-6 in football teams, they’re considered a juggernaut. In the NFL 10-6 doesn’t even win the division in most seasons. Baseball requires more games to show the talent difference. But if you are going to just start handing out playoff spots like candy on Halloween, the value of a regular season and 162 games matters far less.

Expanding the playoffs puts more money into the owners pockets. That’s what they want. But this just feels like example eleventy-billion by the current group of owners and Rob Manfred that is about as short sighted as possible and one that doesn’t seem to consider what it’s doing to the future of the game. If the regular season doesn’t matter, people will stop paying attention to it as much.

Eventually that’s going to lead to people paying less attention to the sport overall – and it’s a sport that has been trending in the wrong direction for a while when it comes to attention as it is. Toss in the uprooting of small town baseball being eliminated in 40-something cities across the country with minor league baseball being stripped away and being replaced by either wood bat college leagues, or maybe some semi-pro baseball leagues and you are losing building fans of teams around the country (there’s still baseball, but the fans in those towns will no longer be Reds fans or White Sox fans because the guys who all came through that town went on to play for those teams – you lose that “brand loyalty”, and that most certainly can’t be good for the game). It’s just penny wise and pound foolish.

26 Responses

  1. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I say no to the expansion. I mean, the season is long enough.

    If you are going to expand it, why not just let all teams in, then? Make it an elimination tournament.

    • B-town fan

      Exactly then what’s the point of even having a regular season, pennant races what pennant races who cares geez, might as well just make the whole season an elimination tournament like mentioned above, like the Champions League in soccer. All of the hallowed records for the last 150yrs become meaningless, what a mess.

      • jim walker

        The Champions League is really the playoffs with qualification based on the regular season before in their home country. And the Europa League is essentially a wildcard play in tournament with the top prize being a seat in the following season’s Champions League.

  2. west larry

    I’m in favor of expansion-even the format we used this year. If we do that, I think we need to go back to a 154 regular season format. Heck, we could go to a 142 game regular season . With the all star season break, and the expanded playoff system, we need to cut back on the regular season games. I would even be in favor of eliminating
    the interleague play during the regular season, and then awarding the teams with the best records to be the sixteen teams, regardless of what league they are in-and then let sixteen play one, 15 play two, et al regardless of which league they are in. Let’s try to et the two best teams in baseball in the world series.

    • Kevin Davis

      I agree with this. I have proposed eliminating the leagues all together and going to 3 10 team divisions. Play 81 games against the other 9 teams in your division. 30 games against 5 teams in the other division for a total of 60 additional games. Get’s the season done about 24 days sooner (when accounting for less off days). Then you could have 12 or 16 teams in the playoff and get the season over in about the same time.

      • Colorado Red

        And the players are going to take a 10 % cut in pay give or take.
        No thank you. Go back to what works.
        Players will not accept it, they want owners to pay to compete, and finishing 7th in 15 team league is not competing well

  3. Mark Moore

    Meh … would have to see the proposal. Some kind of a trade-off between post-season and regular season may make sense like West Larry noted.

    Downsizing for MiLB is very sad. Not only players and coaches lose out, but local stadium jobs and fans who no longer have an option close to them. Then again, maybe this ends up as a precursor to more wooden bat leagues. I still kick myself that I didn’t go watch any Cape Cod games the summer I was in New Hampshire.

  4. Bred

    It would be interesting to know if fans in minor league towns do indeed follow the big league club they host. I assume they don’t get the big league games on over the air or cable TV. Do they purchase MLB.TV to follow the team? Do they purchase the merchandise of the big league club? Do they travel to see the MLB team? Minor league teams seem to change locations frequently, so unless a team stays in a location for a long time it seems like it would be difficult to build a fan base for the MLB team.
    On expanded playoffs, I get the reason for it. One is $ the another is prolonged fan interest of teams still in the hunt which gets more fans coming to the park and more eyes on TV. The regular season would be for tournament seeding rather than eliminating all but 5 teams.

    • Rednat

      the reds are such a regional team. i think alot of fans (like myself) will go where ever baseball is being played. if the reds are in town i will go to gabp. if they are out of town i will go to louisville or dayton. the atmosphere is all three stadiums is very good and it is what i miss the most during this pandemic.

  5. LDS

    No, no, no. Baseball is a game that is most meaningful when traditions are adhered to. The DH, the division re-alignment, inter-league play, this year’s stupid extra innings runner, the no pitch intentional pass rule (remember Rose), the 3 batter rule, etc. all subtract from the game in favor of “speeding up play”. Those that want a “faster game” can go watch hockey. I, for one, like to see the strategy moves play out (not Bell’s meaningless switches). Expanding the playoff field increases the revenue but subtracts from the meaning of the regular season. Why not just have a MLB wide best of 7 single elimination tournament and skip the regular season?

  6. Charlie Waffles

    I am not an NBA fan by any stretch, but ask most NBA fans who don’t have a team in their city how often they tune into the regular season games nowadays, and the answer is not much. They wait for the playoffs where half the league’s teams get in. They play a regular season only for playoff seeding. I am not in favor of such a set up. Going 81-81, or even sub-.500, and making the playoffs is not good for the sport.
    However, I am not against adding 1 more team, a second wild card team, to the playoffs. Have the 2 wild card teams have a 3 game play-in series in each league. The 3 division winners all earn a 3 day break. Then again, a team with momentum on its side going into the playoffs might not want a 3 day break. But after 162 games most every team could use that break. Winning the division has to mean something. Winning a league pennant has to mean something. Winning a division or conference means virtually nothing in the NFL and NBA. Let’s not head down that road.

    • Charlie Waffles

      Ooops, I misspoke, by saying add a second wild card. That has been done. I should have said to get away from the 1 game play in game and make it a 3 game series. This 16 team playoff this year got me all discombobulated.

      • jim walker

        How about 6 teams from each “league”. Top 2 division winners on each side of the bracket get a bye. The 3 wildcard teams and third division winner on each side play in a best of 3 series to move on against the seeded division winners; and from there it goes as now. This is basically stealing from the NFL plan but it works.

        This would cut into all the dead weight September games on 2 counts. First of all, more teams would playing deeper into the season for Wldcard spots. Secondly the teams at the top would be playing almost down to the wire for seeding spots.

    • RojoBenjy

      I will say at least for me this year, the very first game I watched entirely on TV was the first playoff game. So this idea of not watching until playoffs are seeded played out for me.

  7. Rednat

    assuming limited fans in stands over the next few years i can imagine a shortened regular season with a longer, more inclusive playoff system. With the pandemic and flu season, i can’t imagine baseball be playing in the cooler months of April or May. i can see A 90-100 game regular season IN June, July and August with 16 team playoffs and world series in september and early october.

    • jim walker

      I was thinking a couple of days ago about what next season might look like due to the lingering pandemic effects. I’m pretty much with you. Hard to see the season starting before mid May at the earliest and quite possibly not till June.

      Especially, we saw a clear indication this year that if there are no fans or severely restricted numbers of fans in the stands, MLB is in no hurry to start playing.

      I do not envy the teams’ job in trying to figure out both the business model on th4 financal side or how to put together the best team for the season that will end up being contested. Talk about moving targets….

  8. RojoBenjy

    So far the only thing Rob Manfred has done for baseball that is positive in my view is to make the ASG an exhibition again.

  9. Daytonnati

    Add two more teams to make 32 – two 16-team leagues – four 4-team divisions, like the NFL. No more wild cards, everyone is a division champion.

  10. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I honestly I have no problem with the cutting of the minor leagues. I do feel for the players, coaches, other workers who would lose their jobs. But, like with the Reds, looking at it right now, they have 8 minor league teams. They have teams at 6 different levels, if you consider Rookie Ball and “Short Season A” as 2 different levels. And, it’s seemed like the Reds take each of these levels as “one level each year”. Where, if the player was a college player, by the time he gets to the majors, he’s past much of his prime. If the player was a high school player drafted, by the time he gets to the majors, he should be just getting into his prime years, in his rookie season?

    I can understand not moving players up if they don’t deserve to move up. However, what about when they deserve to move up? Why do they have to wait till the end of the season to move up? Especially the ones who are suppose to be stars. Let’s see what they have. See if they can handle moving up to the next level mid-season. Maybe 2 levels in one season. I mean, even Mike Leake never saw a day of minor league ball before his rookie season (only Arizona Fall League). It is possible to move up more than 1 level per season.

    • Doug Gray

      This just isn’t true, though, Steve.

      Guys move up at midseason all of the time. Who are these guys that clearly deserved to move up, but didn’t? I can only recall a few instances over the last decade, and of those there’s only 2-3 of actual top prospects (Amir Garrett in Daytona, for example).

      When Robert Stephenson was destroying hopes and dreams of hitters in the minors he went from Dayton to Bakersfield to Pensacola in one season. Luis Castillo jumped from Double-A to the Majors before the All-Star break in his only year in the minors with the organization. Nick Senzel split his first full year between Daytona and Pensacola. Jesse Winker, as a 20-year-old, spent the first half in Bakersfield before being sent to Pensacola for the 2nd half (got injured, only played in 21 games). Tyler Mahle split his 21-year-old season in Daytona and Pensacola. He then split his 22-year-old seasons in Pensacola, Louisville, and then made his debut in September with Cincinnati. Shed Long split 2016 between Dayton and Daytona as a 20-year-old. At 21 he split the year before Daytona and Pensacola.

      When guys are both talented and performing – they get promoted in almost every single case I can recall.

  11. JayTheRed

    I don’t want to see expanded playoffs. Other than making the wild card series best of 3 instead of just 1 game. I also don’t want to see a ton of playoff teams. Maybe 1st and 2nd in each division would be well ok at best, then only have one other team make it. I would prefer what it has been prior to this current season though other than what I mentioned above.

    Make being in the playoffs special. Don’t take away from that.

  12. CFD3000

    The expanded playoffs made a ton of sense this year. But I’m not in favor of replicating that in a 162 game season. Home field advantage in a 3 game series isn’t enough reward for winning a division, and 8 teams getting in will seriously diminish the value of and interest in the regular season. So… No. But I have long hated the one game play in for wild card teams. At the very least make the wild card teams play 3 (or 5) games to face the division winners. That adds playoff games and revenue without diminishing the value of a division title.

    I also really liked the no off days version of the division and league championship series. It puts a premium on depth, especially pitching depth, and no longer means that a mediocre team with two great starters can blow through a better, deeper team. Keep that format and you’ve gained back the time in the postseason schedule to make room for those extra wild card games.

    • Jimbo44CN

      I agree about the one game wild card playoff. Should be 3 like this year.

      • TR

        MLB should be careful to not lessen the importance of the regular season. The goal being, make the playoffs and go from there. Consideration could be given to lessening the season by a few weeks instead of starting in March. Make the wild card series 3 of 5, and I like a rest day(s) during the world series for the pitchers to recoup.

    • jim walker

      I think interest in the regular season is directly proportional to the likelihood of a person’s favorite team being in the postseason which speaks to having more teams making the postseason..