By Emma Spring
New York City, New York
The MLB’s shortened 60-game season has faced outbreaks of COVID-19, strict health protocols, seven-inning doubleheaders, and now, MLB has expanded the postseason from ten to sixteen teams.
Without fans and nearly two-thirds of the season, MLB has lost billions of dollars; to recover, baseball has added an extra “wild-card” bracket for all teams, where the winning teams will advance onto the American League Division Series. The idea is to hold and broadcast more baseball games to increase interest and make money. More baseball seems exciting, but this approach is only a money-making business move. The expansion goes against the tenets of the sport and can lead to highly unfair outcomes.
Baseball is a 160-game season where each game counts, and the best team comes out on top. It is fundamentally hard to get into the postseason and even harder to win the World Series. But now, many teams with dreadful records are entering into the postseason bracket.
Under this structure, the Milwaukee Brewers, with a losing record of 29-31, face the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team with the best record in baseball this year, 43-17, in a best-of-three series. If the Brewers were to win just two games, they would eliminate the arguably best team in baseball. Sub-.500 average teams should not make the playoffs. How is it fair to determine which team is “better” by winning a best-of-three series? If this is possible, does the regular season even matter at all?
Problems also arise with the plan to have no off days during the division and league championships. This structure will test the stamina of high-leverage relief pitchers who will have to pitch in back-to-back games or force teams to rely on other relievers in the bullpen. For the New York Yankees, with a couple of strong relievers and weaker support behind, this new structure might be dangerous for their postseason performance.
It is also possible that the MLB will continue to use this structure in future seasons as well. A team like the Chicago White Sox, who have missed the postseason for twelve straight years, would likely be in favor of this change, as it would give them a higher chance of making the playoffs each year. However, teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, who always have a solid record, have to do even more to prove their worthiness of a playoff run.
That the Los Angeles Dodgers won this year’s World Series should demonstrate that an expanded playoff structure is viable and sustainable. Nonetheless, it is crucial to consider that rewiring the playoff challenges baseball’s traditions and perspectives moving forward.