On Monday, the idea of a new postseason format was presented to the public. Under a new format proposed by MLB, two more teams would be added to the post-season. The top division winner would get a first-round bye, while the next two division winners would select their first-round opponent in a best-of-three series.
The overwhelming response to this new format seems to fall somewhere in between “no” and “GET YOUR PITCHFORK!!!”. I come before you today to present the argument FOR this new format.
Increasing the Field
Let’s start with increasing the field to seven teams. I think this is probably the most digestible part of the new format to the purists. Who doesn’t want more teams in? The fans do. The players do. The owners DAMN sure do. What’s not to like about this?
The haters are going to say “Because you’re going to get undeserving teams in”. Well let’s look at that. This is a list of the teams in the last ten years that would’ve been added to the postseason under the new format.
Only six of those added forty teams had a record at or under .500 (‘17 Royals, ‘17 Rays, ‘16 Marlins, ‘14 Mets, ‘13 Diamondbacks, and ‘11 Blue Jays). Those teams should definitely be considered “undeserving” but I don’t think anyone on this site would be arguing with another Royals postseason run with that ‘17 group.
The average record of those forty teams is 85-77 and the teams in yellow are the teams at or below that record. These teams represent a group that are definitely on the fence. Since we’re close to March Madness, they’re bubble teams. Each of the thirteen teams can be dissected individually to determine “deserving-ness” but since we can’t really do that and a consistent line should be drawn, I’m saying they’re in. If you want to leave them out, that’s understandable.
That only leaves the green teams that, in my mind are undeniably deserving. If you want to leave the red and yellow teams out, fine. You’re still left with twenty one teams that ARE deserving. Two teams per year makes the case for a six team-per-league format so there’s already precedent for a change, in my humble opinion. Get ‘em in there!
The expansion also has the biggest deterrent though and that is the elimination of the Wild Card game. Actually there are really two, losing the Wild Card game and the fact that if this format had been the running format, the St. Louis Cardinals would have been in every postseason since 2008.
I love everything about the Wild Card game. It’s an entire season’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears boiled down to nine innings of survival. And when you include that with the rest of the possible win-or-go-home games in the current postseason setup, you could see that scenario play out nine times in any given postseason. Under this new format, you’re talking about thirteen possible matchups where both teams are fighting to move on. That’ll get the blood going, and that’s not including all of the elimination games where only one team is trying to stay alive. 13 > 9
Oh the drama!
To me, the drama factor here is the biggest pro to this new format. The drama is increased here and potentially sets up some magical moments. The only thing better than a high stakes game is raising the stakes; a simple principle. Amping up the match up by throwing in the simple fact that one of these teams picked this match up.
Think about the NL Wild Card game last year. The Brewers had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning. Bases loaded. Two outs. Hader pitching to Soto after Soto hit him with the Soto Shuffle.
Now think about if one of those teams had hand-picked the match up because they thought they were more likely to win. Let ‘em know, Taylor!
Yeah, give me that sweet, sweet drama!
Do you think that that drama is gonna keep away the new fans the league is clamoring for? Helllllllll nah. It’ll do the opposite! That video of the Soto Shuffle has been viewed 286,000 times as of this article. If you throw that video into the social media-sphere with the caption “And to think the Brewers CHOSE to be in this situation...”. We’re talking about 10 billion views at least. (OK maybe that’s a bit ambitious but you get the picture). New fans will be flocking to the drama like me flocking to the pizza rolls pan at the Super Bowl party (swiftly and aggressively).
I get it, purists. There’s nothing wrong with the game. Leave it alone. You can’t fix something that isn’t broken. I’d be perfectly fine with that because I too love baseball in its current form. It’s OK to feel that way.
It’s also OK to acknowledge the UNDENIABLE fact that baseball can afford a boost in action and drama. We don’t drive Model T’s anymore, we drive ‘93 Corollas. Some of you rich folk might drive something even nicer. The point is that just because something is working, it can’t be working better-ly.
So go ahead, Commissioner Manfred. Inject that sweet, sweet change directly into my veins.