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Saturday, March 28, 2020

MLB could add four more playoff teams, make radical format changes

Major League Baseball is considering the possibility of adding more playoff teams and making significant changes to its postseason format, and the new system could be in place as soon as 2022.

According to a report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post, MLB is seriously weighing the idea of moving from five playoff teams in each league to seven, beginning in 2022. If all of the proposed changes are implemented, that would be one of the least dramatic.

In addition to adding more playoff teams, some teams could be allowed to choose their opponents as part of a selection show on live television. Sherman reports that the proposed new postseason format would see the top team from both the American League and National League receive a bye in the opening round, so they would automatically advance to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card team with the best record would then host a three-game series in which all three games would be played in their home ballpark, meaning the bottom three wild card teams would have no home games in the first round.

Follow all that? Here’s where it gets even more interesting. With the division winner with the best record having a bye in the wild card round, the division winner with the second-best record would be given the opportunity to pick its opponent from the bottom three wild card teams. The other division winner would then choose its opponent from the remaining teams, leaving the final two teams to face each other. The plan would be for all of the selections to unfold on live TV on the final Sunday of the regular season.

Any change to MLB’s playoff format would have to be agreed upon by the MLB Players Association, but the belief is that having more playoff teams is something the union wants, as it would lead to more teams being in contention and thus less tanking. Teams may also be willing to spend more in free agency if they have a better chance of reaching the postseason.

The proposed new format would give a much greater incentive to finish with the best record in the league, as that team would go directly to the Division Series. Also, MLB wants to make the regular season more meaningful by having the regular season series between two teams serve as the tiebreaker in the event that two teams finish with the same regular season record. That would eliminate the need for the 163rd game, which many believe is unfair like the current one-game wild card playoff.

While the changes may terrify baseball purists, there is definitely plenty of intrigue. Imagine a team like the Red Sox having a choice of whether or not they want to face their rival, the Yankees, in a postseason series? That would make for an outstanding storyline.

The NBA has also been considering making some serious format changes to drum up more interest, so MLB officials are not alone with their thinking.

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