The 2021 minor league playoffs, long thought to be a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, might not be dead after all.
Major League Baseball has told teams around the minors to leave open dates in mid/late September. That opens up the possibility that some form of playoffs could be reinstated for the 2021 season.
Instead of starting in April, all four levels of full-season baseball were pushed back to an early May start, cutting all four levels to 120 regular-season games.
At one point, those extra dates were viewed as potentially necessary to ensure that there were make-up dates in case of coronavirus outbreaks that forced significant alterations to minor league schedules.
Now, with coronavirus infection numbers in the U.S. down to the lowest seven-day averages since March 2020, at the very start of the pandemic in the U.S., those dates could instead be used to play some form of playoffs, marking a further return to normalcy for the 2021 season.
Playoffs would create a much more realistic champion than simply relying on the best record in the league—many leagues are playing very unbalanced schedules. In the Triple-A East League, for example, six teams will play each other all year while never playing the other 14 teams. Playoffs would allow those teams to face off to determine a champion.
No decision has been made, but it is now possible. When the 2021 minor league season began, simply getting in 120 games seemed like a lofty goal. Now, it may be able to return to something a little closer to normal.