Wait a Minute: These new MLB Postseason Rules Might be Great
Major League Baseball is weighing huge changes to its current postseason format. The playoffs would be expanded from five to seven teams per league, with three division winners and four wild card teams. The first place team in each league will have a bye for the first round, while the next three teams pick their opponents for the first round. This is a fascinating revelation, likely to generate passionate debate on both sides. But what is Major League Baseball trying to accomplish here, and what will result from these changes? I would argue that these changes are good for the growth of the game, at a time when it is losing ground to leagues such as the NBA and NFL in the battle for popularity.
These new changes will create a made-for-TV event where teams will choose their opponents for the first round. This will generate passionate debates, both in the national and local media, over who a particular team should elect to play. Plus, it could create narratives for fans to discuss. Imagine the Dodgers choosing to play the Giants, or the Yankees choosing to play the Red Sox in the first round. These decisions would make baseball more relevant than ever on sports talk shows across the nation.
These changes would also create more meaningful games at the end of the regular season. Seeding would be more important, and there is a greater incentive to finish first in the league. As a result, even if a team has already made the playoffs, or won their division, there is still an incentive to watch games on TV, or even buy tickets to see a game. This, along with greater ticket sales and television revenue from more postseason games, would substantially increase the profitability of Major League Baseball.
Finally, these changes would increase the competitive balance across the league, and make Major League Baseball more engaging as a whole. It would increase the reward of a wild card berth from a one-game playoff to a full series. This would mean more teams would try to make the playoffs, either through aggressive moves at the trade deadline or through free agency. This would engage more fans in more cities, creating more buzz around the league. It would show that the league, and many teams within it, are committed to providing the best product possible. It would illustrate Major League Baseball's desire to attract more casual sports fans, a strategy that has the potential to be extremely profitable in the future.