One of the best things about the MLB playoffs is that they’re almost exactly the opposite of the NBA playoffs. Only one-third of the teams make it as opposed to one-half, and subsequently, the best teams in each league are rewarded with a bye. This creates a regular season that holds significantly more weight than the NBA regular season, and in turn, creates a playoff that ensures only the best teams compete.
However, the proposed drastic rule changes, reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, could ruin all of that.
In this proposed change, instead of five teams making the playoffs from each league it would be seven – three division winners and four wild card teams. The top seed would get a bye, and the bottom six would play each other, with the two other division winners and the first wild card getting home-field advantage in a best-of-three series.
The biggest twist? The teams would get to choose who they want to play, in order of seeding.
There are just so many things wrong with this whole idea, but the one that sticks out to me the most is expanding the playoffs to seven teams apiece. Sure, allowing more teams in would involve more fanbases in the playoffs, but it also clears the way for subpar teams to make the playoffs when they don’t deserve to.
Luckily for me, Twitter has already dredged up teams that would have made the playoffs in other years, including the Athletic’s Tim Britton.
“Under this system, the 2014 Mets would have been a playoff team — with a 79-83 record,” Britton tweeted. “Last year’s Mets, of course, also would have made it.”
In case you’re thinking that’s just an outlier, there’s more.
“Under this system, six teams .500 or worse would have made the playoffs in the last seven years,” Britton tweeted. “Every team with 86+ wins would have made it.”
Under this system, the 2014 Mets would have been a playoff team — with a 79-83 record. Last year's Mets, of course, also would have made it. https://t.co/i5fW0AlaqZ
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) February 10, 2020
In most of the recent years, a team that was, at best, exactly average would have made the playoffs.
The 2014 Mets in no way shape or form should have been a playoff team. They didn’t have a single qualifying hitter with an OPS over .830, and that was Lucas Duda. They, rightfully so, would have gotten demolished by Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers in the best-of-three series, that is assuming Los Angeles picks them of course.
However, that’s not even the most troubling thing to me. It’s that with this new system, 86 wins would essentially be an automatic playoff bid. Is that all it’s going to take now? Being just barely above mediocre. In a season where you play 162 games, all it takes is for you to win 10 more games than you lose to guarantee a spot in the playoffs?
That’s exactly what the Mets did last season, and sure, they were fun to watch and made a valiant effort down the stretch, that team did not deserve to make the playoffs. Not with how many games they let slip away.
Playoff teams are supposed to be great, not just good. The proposed system would not only let virtually all “just good” teams into the playoffs, but open the door for bad teams to get in as well.
Not only that, but it would make the regular season significantly less meaningful, and could potentially lead to an issue of teams resting players for the postseason. Sure, the bye could create a little bit of a fight for the top seed, but teams will pretty early on see the writing on the wall that they’re not going to get it and as long as they’re comfortably in playoff positioning – which as we’ve established is just slightly above average – rest anyone important.
Then there’s the picking aspect, which is just a blatant money grab. It’s one more thing that the MLB can market and sell, I can see it already.
“Welcome to the first annual MLB playoff draft,” says Joe Buck. “Tonight, we’ll find out if the No. 2 seeded Braves want to play the Reds, Padres or Mets! But first, it’s time to go to commercial break one of seven for this half-hour show.”
I already want to puke.
The prospect of teams choosing who they want to play is not only just plain stupid but it creates an unnecessary competitive advantage for the top teams.
I’d absolutely hate being in line for the No. 4 seed until the No. 2 seed decides they want to play you because they like that matchup the best. Sure, the No. 2 seed will most likely pick the No. 7 seed to play, but here’s a hypothetical, and pretend this is in effect for the 2020 season.
The Dodgers are the No. 1 seed and get the bye, because now with Mookie Betts I don’t know how they can’t be the early season favorites. The Braves are the No. 2 seed, the Brewers are the No. 3 seed, the Cardinals are the No. 4 seed, the Mets are the No. 5 seed, the Nationals are the No. 6 seed and the Reds are the No. 7 seed.
If they were to seed the playoffs normally, the Braves would play the Reds, the Brewers would play the Nationals and the Cardinals would play the Mets. But, right before the end of the season, Jacob deGrom goes down with a season-ending injury (knock on wood). Not only does this just inherently hurt the Mets’ chances, but the Braves could then decide to take advantage of the injury and choose them to play in the first round.
The Mets had a season that should have earned them a game versus the No. 4 seed, but now because the MLB wants to treat the playoffs, as Joel Sherman described it, like reality TV, they are now forced to play the No. 2 seed. The Mets would have to play a theoretically better team than, say, the Reds would, despite winning more games than them in the regular season. On top of losing their best player, they now also have to face a better team than they should have to. How is that fair?
The whole system really is a money grab. More teams in the playoffs equal more games, more games equals larger television deals which equal more money. Who cares if the teams and players get screwed along the way?
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Michael Dwyer / AP Photo.