Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association are cracking open the door to an expanded playoff with just one day left before the regular season, according to a new report.
The MLB postseason could expand from 10 teams to 16 in an effort to combat small sample size and wring revenue out of the coronavirus-shortened season, MLB.com's Jon Heyman reported Wednesday.
Heyman said there "seems to be optimism" about the idea of turning the most exclusive playoff format in major American sports into a postseason club for more than half of the league's teams. It would tie the NBA and NHL for the largest playoff pool in major American sports, though both leagues have altered and expanded their own playoff formats due to the coronavirus. Such a change for MLB would almost certainly just be for this shortened season.
The argument most pertinent to the players and club owners - and which likely brought the two sides together despite their long-acrimonious relationship - is the money angle.
With more nationally televised postseason games comes more revenue for teams and TV networks, a boon for the league. But when MLB implemented a 60-game season after failed negotiations with the players' union on terms for the campaign, it lost its ability to continue bargaining for such an expansion. Now that appears back on the table, and it could expand the players' postseason earnings - assuming the season reaches that stage.
Another argument in favor of the expanded playoff centers around baseball's place as a sport with a high number of statistical anomalies - last year's World Series champion Washington Nationals would have missed the 2019 playoffs if the season ended at 60 games. An expanded postseason would be a bigger tent to ensure the best teams make the tournament.
This may go without saying, but it also would increase the odds that teams with lesser talent make the postseason. A downside to the playoff expansion is that it boosts the chances that one of these less talented clubs heats up for three games and takes down a juggernaut. Cinderella runs are fun in March Madness, but if the intent is to crown the most qualified club, expanded playoffs may not accomplish that goal.
Either way, the league and players have less than 24 hours before first pitch on opening night. It's unclear yet if the sides could agree to expand the playoffs after that point.
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