Three Reasons MLB Should NOT Expand the Playoffs (and One Reason They Should)
After the Coronoavirus cut short much of the season, Major League Baseball made the decision to expand the playoffs to include 16 teams. This temporary solution is now being considered as a permanent change to the baseball calendar.
Many fans (and sports writers) are up in arms about this proposed change. Here are three reasons why it might be a bad idea.
1) It Lessens the Importance of Consistent Greatness
A 162-game regular season is a grind. It shows the grit and determination of every player on every team. Therefore, the postseason in any sport represents the cream of the crop. It comprises teams that planted their flags and said “we belong here”. Adding four or six extra teams dilutes this commitment to consistent excellence.
You could say it demeans the achievement of the teams that rightfully earned their shot at the World Series title.
2) It Could Lower the Standard of Regular Season Games
From the perspective of a player, expanded playoffs is in some ways a bit of an insult. That is to say, allowing more than half the league to have a fresh start in October minimizes the importance of a 162-game regular season.
Players may be less motivated to put forth their best effort in these games, as the odds of their team having a shot at the championship is significantly increased.
Player intensity levels could drop if the goal of postseason play is easier to attain
To put it into perspective, let’s take a look at what the 2019 postseason would have looked like with this 16-team format.
The teams that immediately stick out are the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Each of these clubs finished at least 19 games out of first place in their division, with the Rangers ending the season below .500.
If you knew your team only had to win half their games and still had a good chance to experience the thrill of postseason play would you run the bases just as hard all year?
You can’t talk about a major change in baseball without mentioning history. Baseball fans are comfortably the most historically-conscious of all sports and traditionally do not like change. In this case they have a point. Expanding the postseason arguably puts the integrity of the game of baseball at stake.
It’s hard to believe that if 16 teams had been allowed into the playoffs over the last 120 years we would still be looking at the exact same list of World Series Champions.
And to baseball fans, that matters.
Baseball fans are always conscious of the long history and traditions of the game
Of course there are other ways of looking at it. Here’s the biggest reason why there is a very good chance the league will make this new arrangement permanent.
1) It Increases Fan Engagement and that Means More Money
You could argue that from a fan’s perspective 16-team playoffs are most definitely appealing. The chances of your favorite team being in the postseason have increased by 60%.
On top of this, we all know Major League Baseball is a business. The league does not necessarily make the bulk of its money from the diehard fan that watches every game. A disproportionate amount of revenue comes from the fan who does not care about baseball 11 months out of the year, sees “their” team make the postseason and then tunes in for the playoffs.
Adding six teams into the mix means another six sets of these fans.