1. Cheapens the playoffs
One of the things baseball has always prided itself on is how hard it is to make the playoffs. It takes decades to change their playoff format and every time they expand the pool, it is instantly met with pushback. But every time they’ve done this, from splitting into 3 divisions and the invention of the wild card to the addition of the second wild card, it has been met with criticism, but has also been a success.
Under the current system, just 10 of the 30 teams make the playoffs each year, or 33% of the eligible pool. In the NBA, 16 of the 30 teams make the playoffs (53%). In the NFL its 12 of the 32(37.5%), and in the NHL 16 of 31 teams (52%) get into the playoffs. Of the 4 major sports, baseball has the highest threshold to be considered a playoff team.
Which brings us to our second con.
2. Makes regular season less meaningful
We hear it all the time. MLB prides itself on its long, grueling schedule. They love to call it a marathon. But you can’t afford to just toss games often because your odds of reaching the playoffs are so slim that often the margin of error ends up being just one or two games.
The regular season matters in baseball and football. In hockey and basketball, it is basically a multiple months warm-up for the end of season tournament. The value of the regular season is huge in baseball and anything that damages that can be seen as a negative.
3. The quirks need work
There are a few quirks in this proposal that leads to a lot of questions. First, does earning a “bye week” really help that much. Unlike in the NFL, taking a week off of baseball after the grind of the previous 6 months could be considered a bad thing. The NFL players need that mental and physical break, but in a sport so predicated on the repetition of their skill, not playing games for 3-5 days while everybody else is could be a disadvantage.
Second, and perhaps the biggest fuss being made in regards to the proposal, is the seeding of the new playoffs. The idea that the best team gets to pick their opponent is tough to wrap your head around as a fan.
Would it not be simpler to just seed the teams as normal, where the best team gets the one with the worst record and so on? Well, that isn’t really an option, thanks to the 7 team format and the elimination of the 1-game playoff. Since all series are now 3 game series, the only way to make it work is to give the first seed a bye and then let them pick their opponent.
The whole thing feels, for the lack of a better term, gimmicky. A lot of baseball fans hate gimmicks and will crow that they ruin the game. Whatever side of the ledger you fall on, there are obviously issues that need to be resolved before this process is put into place.
Well, there you have it. Some of the bigger pros and cons of the new playoff format. We should applaud baseball for even considering changing their game, something that doesn’t come easy to the old men that run the game. But it is also fair to point out some of the glaring holes present in this proposal. What do you think? Would this reformat be good for baseball?