Glaser: MLB’s Playoff Proposal Won’t Fix Its Problems

Image credit: Nationals GM Mike Rizzo (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

The New York Post reported Monday that Major League Baseball is considering an expanded postseason where 14 of the league’s 30 teams would make the playoffs and the top teams would get to pick their opponents.

Regardless of whether the best postseason format is the past or present one, it certainly is not this future one.

MLB should be working hard to be less like the NHL and NBA when it comes to the postseason, not more. Those are the leagues that feature roughly half of all teams making the playoffs, and we know what happens.

Teams with losing records get in. No one remembers what happens in the first round. The regular season is irrelevant. Making the playoffs becomes a meaningless accomplishment.

One of baseball’s most valuable assets is its playoff teams have proved undeniably worthy. After 162 games, the teams who make it have earned it.

Adopt this proposal and MLB throws that all away. Devalue the 162-game regular season to the point that even teams who barely finish above .500—as the seventh-best teams in each league, the Red Sox (84-78) and D-backs (85-77) did last year—can call themselves playoff teams, and making the playoffs becomes little more than a participation trophy. In 2017, there would have been a three-way tie for the sixth-best record in the American League—all three teams (the Angels, Royals and Rays) finished at 80-82.

All that in the name of satisfying broadcast partners, who, by the way, are already paying MLB more than a combined $1 billion per year and are zero threat to suddenly just stop carrying MLB games. MLB doesn’t need radical changes to survive in the modern media landscape.

Baseball is already dealing with a number of long-term problems, from the increasing length of game times to declining attendance to a sign-stealing scandal that has created a crisis in credibility.

Embracing mediocrity to generate superficial excitement is not a fix to MLB’s problems. It would just create new ones.

How They Would Have Finished
MLB’s reported playoff proposal would expand the playoffs to seven teams in each league. Here is how many wins the seventh place team finished with in each of the past 19 seasons.
Year AL Wins NL Wins
2019 Boston 84 Arizona 85
2018 Seattle 89 Three-way tie 82
2017 Three-way tie 80 St. Louis 83
2016 Two-way tie 86 Miami 79
2015 Minnesota 83 Washington 83
2014 Cleveland 85 Two-way tie 79
2013 Two-way tie 85 Arizona 81
2012 Los Angeles 89 Milwaukee 83
2011 Toronto 81 Los Angeles 82
2010 Toronto 85 Colorado 83
2009 Tampa Bay 84 Atlanta 86
2008 Toronto 86 Two-way tie 86
2007 Toronto 83 Atlanta 84
2006 Toronto 87 Cincinnati 80
2005 Minnesota 83 Two-way tie 83
2004 Chicago 83 San Diego 87
2003 Two-way tie 86 Two-way tie 85
2002 Chicago 81 Montreal 83
2001 Boston 82 Two-way tie 86

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