For years I posted about how the regular season should have each team play every other team - and they finally did it! Now I'm starting to post about how the post-season should do the same.
The first two days of the 2023 wild card series - eight games in 48 hours - was some of the most exciting baseball I've experienced since the Royals' magical run in 2015. Now we have two days of nothing - all of the momentum gone, poof, zippo, take a snooze.
The four winners will sit for two days before they play four teams that have been sitting for five days. That's not the same game of baseball played over the 162-game season.
The dominant post-season format across all sports is the bracket/knockout tournament. Teams are seeded to where the highest seed matches up against the lowest seed. Typically, each round is not re-seeded so upsets can affect the ultimate winner as things play out (see tournament, NCAA).
Baseball is inherently not suited for a knockout tournament due to the fact that they play series, not one-game matchups like football.
When combined, the series in a knockout tournament causes several issues. For scheduling purposes, you have to account for every series to go the full set of games. When a team sweeps a series, there are extra days off and lost games and related revenue.
From a revenue perspective, MLB can't be happy with a format that combines series play with a knockout tournament. If every series went the max there would 53 games played; if every series was a sweep only 30 games would be played. Hello? Money talks, right? Why does MLB keep this format that has so much variability in revenue.
In the 12-team MLB post-season bracket, a number one seed would only need to win three series to be the champion. Is that proof that they are really the best team? They could have been the beneficiary of some luck with the teams they ended up playing (injuries, rotation matchups, regional weather, etc).
Is there a better post-season format for Baseball? Yes.
A true champion needs to be proven the best against all competition, not just over a few teams. The post-season should come close to replicating the regular season. In the following suggested post-season format, the main aspect of a series that is kept is the feature of playing nearly every day.
The following post-season format is referred to as the ‘Second Season' in which a smaller number of team essentially play a mini-season. It works like the following:
The teams deemed worthy of post-season are seeded (let's use twelve teams for discussion purposes).
- Each team will play one game against all other playoff teams (that's eleven games).
- The highest seed will play all eleven games at home as a reward for being top seed.
- The next highest seed plays one road game and ten home games, etc.
- The lowest seeded team plays all games on the road.
- A full schedule of games (six) would be played each day. Teams would get three off days by spreading one days' slate over two days making for a fixed two-week mini-season.
- The split-schedule/off-days would be considered a ‘flex-schedule' which can be used in case of bad weather causing cancellations. Teams would know those games could be moved in the best interest of baseball.
- The lowest seeded team will travel each day - the schedule would be set to limit the burden of travel (ie the traveling salesman algorithm for least travel miles).
- The top two teams then play a best-of-three series for the championship.
In this proposed format, there are 66 games played followed by a best-of-three series. The league could make a rule that when a team's remaining games have no impact on the top two finishers that those games could be cancelled, but this can be mitigated somewhat by how seeded teams are scheduled.
Having a complete post-season in a fixed two-week window would be a marketing dream - ‘The Fastest Two Weeks in Sports' - everyday action and reaction, non-stop adrenaline, no time to think, rely on raw baseball instincts to win, you have to beat the best to be the best.
This is a no-brainer for MLB.
- There would literally be no oxygen for the NFL for two weeks. Yes, please.
- Late season push by each team for higher seed for better home field advantage. Yes, please.
- Every star in the post-season playing against the other stars. Yes, please.
- Guaranteed 66 games instead of an unknown number from 30 to 53. Yes, please.
- Predictable revenue and fixed schedule. Yes, please.
- Owning the sports world for two weeks. YES, PLEASE.