It’s an unfortunate conversation to have while the World Series is taking place, but it is one that needs to be discussed. The MLB changed its playoff format two years ago, expanding the postseason to 12 teams, six in each league with the top two seeds earning first-round byes.
On the surface, it seems like a good proposition for the best teams in each league. They get to sit on the couch while the other four teams in each league battle it out for a spot in the NLDS. However, the extended layoff has proved to be more of a problem than an advantage. Timing is such a vital aspect in baseball, and teams with byes are 3-5 in the NLDS over the last two seasons.
Perhaps it is just the small sample size. Baseball has a tendency to produce unexpected results no matter the playoff format. However, Rob Manfred did say ahead of the World Series that the current MLB postseason format would be discussed ahead of the 2024 season.
“All I can say about consternation, because it’s kind of a constant in our game, is it will at least motivate a conversation about whether we have it right,” Manfred said, via the Washington Post. “I’m sure that conversation will take place in the postseason. Enough has been written and said that we have to think about it and talk about it.”
“If the die was cast, meaning that if I win 100 in the regular season I’m gonna win the World Series, I don’t think that’s as interesting as what we have witnessed over the last month,” Manfred said.
Baseball will never be able to completely eliminate the randomness of the postseason, and as Manfred mentions, it’s not something they should necessarily try to do. It’s part of what makes the game so special in October. Manfred is also correct that two years isn’t exactly enough of a sample size to draw conclusive judgments.
With that being said, baseball also doesn’t want to lose the lure of regular season success. 162 games is enough to determine who really are the best teams in the league. They need to be properly rewarded for their success during the regular season, or it will surely have a negative effect on the long-term outlook of the game.
Why should anybody care about winning the division or having the best record in baseball for six months if a team that barely sneaks in with an 84-78 record has just as good of a chance to win the World Series?
Those are conversations that must be had this offseason, but I’m not sure any changes will be made until there is further evidence that the layoff prevents the top seeds from performing well in the postseason. We’re probably a couple of years away from changes being made, but this will certainly be a much louder conversation if the same problems persist in 2024.
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