Should The MLB Expanded Playoffs Be Here to Stay?
The MLB playoffs begin today with a record 16 teams participating in October baseball. This is up from the 10 teams we see have seen in the playoffs since the introduction of the One-and-Done Wild Card game in 2012. The first game on is a doozy of a game with the 6-seed Houston Trashtros going up against the 3 seed and AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins. If there were only 10 playoff teams this year, the Astros would have missed out on the chance to hold onto their AL Pennant. This situation made Tim Kurkjian, one of the commentators on today's ABC broadcast, lament on how he is not a fan of the expanded playoffs because it gives teams who underperformed and did not look like World Series material throughout the season a chance to compete. This thought got me going, should the expanded playoffs be here to stay? There are definitely pros and cons so I will lay some out.
One pro is that the expanded playoffs will be great for fans of more mediocre teams that otherwise would miss out on the gut-wrenching magic of the MLB Playoffs. This year, fans have been sorely missed and today are more appreciated than ever as the heart and soul of the sport. Therefore, giving more fans hope and the chance for an unbelievable gameday experience will energize fanbases. This is especially good because the MLB has been trying for years to re-engage Americans who may be losing interest in the sport.
Another pro of expanded playoffs will be that the players and teams will appreciate the opportunity as well. Baseball is a sport where the underdog has a better statistical chance of winning than in the NBA and NHL. Teams love to turn themselves into the underdog and use it as motivation for performance. It is very possible that this year, we will have every Wild Card series be truly competitive and bring out the best in these guys, even if their team was under .500, like the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Despite the benefits of the expanded playoffs, I happen to side more with Tim Kurkjian on this issue. For example, The Los Angeles Dodgers were projected to win 116 games this season. And their reward for that feat would be the same as all the division winners in the MLB, a 3-game Wild Card where anything can happen. In the last 40 years, a divisional victory used to mean the world. This year it means nothing more than going barely above .500. In this shortened 60 game season, I am not so angry about this because the way the playoffs look after 60 games in a 162-game season is never how they look at the season's end. Therefore, the wrong teams would have made the playoffs if the MLB kept it at 10 teams. My opinion is one that Kurkjian and the rest of the broadcast came to believe in, that the playoffs should be expanded but either to 12 teams or 14 teams. That way, we get to compromise between the pros and cons. The best team or 2 teams will still have a bye from the Wild Card, earned by being the best in the regular season. Meanwhile, more teams and more fans are treated to the chance to enjoy and earn their postseason runs. This is not to asterisk whoever comes out on top this year, only to say that I hope it is a temporary solution to the shortened season issue. Maybe in the future if there is a strike or lock-out shortened season, we return to the 16 team model, but otherwise after this year it should stay in the past.