MLB Needs to Expand its Playoffs
More teams in the playoffs would be good for MLB in more ways than one.
I'm just going to say it. The MLB needs a new playoffs format. This season, the MLB had two teams in the NL West win over 105 games, yet one team had to fight for its life in a one-game playoff. Hell, I'd think about Nancy Kerrigan-ing the opposing team's ace before the game. I can't imagine grinding for 162 games, winning 106, and playing in a do-or-die game. If you take the L, that's a tough pill to swallow. For some reason, the more I thought about it, the MLB Playoffs format really ticked me off this year...maybe because I got a taste of something different in last year's Covid-shortened season with expanded playoffs.
My suggestion, which would piss off a lot of those old-timers, is to shorten the regular season and expand the playoffs to eight American League teams and eight National League teams. Why not take the best 16 teams in baseball and see how it plays out? There is too much of a premium put on winning the division. Instead, division leaders can be the one, two, and three seeds with the other five teams falling into place based on win-loss and head-to-head...and the other standard tiebreakers. Or perhaps you just seed teams according to record.
"Shorten the season? Blasphemy! You don't know baseball and its rich tradition blah blah blah!" Well, let me tell you something. The future is now, old man and players are perfectly happy playing 130-140 games vs 162. This allows for more rest, fewer injuries, and longer careers. I realize this changes everything going forward in regards to the stats and metrics of the past. If it makes the game better, not that big of a deal. The season is too long and those games at the end of a season have a lot less attendance and people tuning in if your team isn't sniffing the Wild Card.
The next and possibly biggest reason is fan engagement. As it stands now, there are roughly five to six teams in the hunt from each League - and that's in any given season. That means engagement is coming from only 10 to 12 fanbases towards the end of the season. The suits and ties should look at this and see lots and lots of missed dollar bills. In 2021, if your team is in eighth place there are going to be zero asses in seats in the last third of the season, i.e. less dinero for the organization. Now, expand that to 16 teams and you automatically have 16 fanbases engaged plus a few more with teams knocking on the door of the eight seeds in both the AL and NL. 16 playoff teams is much, much more lucrative even if you trim the regular season down by 20-25 games. There is, without a doubt, more eyes watching if you do this.
So far, the playoffs have been pretty fucking exciting. Walk-offs, late rallies, and great plays. It's been fun to watch. The MLB playoffs are always enjoyable. Clearly, players up their level of play in the postseason (Kiké, I'm looking at you) much more so than they do in the long, drawn-out regular season. We need more of this and we could get more of it if we expand playoffs, which will then have a ripple effect on the latter third of the regular season. Oh baby I'm getting giddy thinking about that amped up Fall baseball with 16 teams! Make it happen.
It's no secret that fan engagement has been on the decline with the average age of a MLB fan north of 55...about 15 years older than the average in other professional sports. It's losing the young crowd to...to like fucking lacrosse or something not nearly as good as baseball. This is a triggered conversation for another time, but obviously the season is too long and the games are too slow. This is one way to help fix that issue. As unbelievably beautiful of a game it is, it needs some juice. No, not that kind of juice...well...maybe, I always like seeing a hitter drop 475-foot dick shots.
Shorter regular season + expanded playoffs = more fan engagement (and $) and better ball. Also, get the Rays out of Tampa - the fanbase and the Trop suck.