I know I don’t talk about baseball that much. Please don’t misconstrue that as me saying I don’t care for it. I love baseball as much as any guy who grew up playing catch with his dad in the back yard. Some of my fondest memories are of watching ball games with my dad and eating peanuts.
While I tend to get more excited about football, I still enjoy a beer and a ball game. However, there are some other reasons why I don’t get as excited about baseball as I do with football.
Some of that has to do with the duration of the season and how often it seems certain teams clinch their playoff spots weeks ahead of time. Most of it has to do with the playoff format, itself. That’s the one part of Major League Baseball that I’ve always had a problem with.
Compared to other sports, baseball has always been much more limited in terms of which teams make the playoffs and how those games are structured. For me, the playoffs never got exciting until the ALCS and the NLCS. That’s usually when the drama happens. The divisional rounds before it are just too forgettable.
Then, two things happened. First, the pandemic struck and truncated the baseball season considerably and the MLB expanded the playoffs. Now, instead of just a handful of teams having a shot at the World Series, the playoffs is more a tournament with 16 teams.
This is what it looked like, just after the wild card rounds wrapped up.
Now, I know baseball is famous for having staunch traditionalists, but after following the wild card rounds, I have to say this.
The MLB should totally keep this format or, at the very least, keep most of it.
I love this new format. It really made the MLB playoffs feel exciting again. For once, I didn’t have to wait until the championship rounds to see some drama. As bad as 2020 has been for sports, this new tournament format might be the best thing that came out of it.
This new setup gives struggling teams a reason to keep playing in the regular season, even when they get into a skid. With this expanded format, there are more spots to fight for. The dominant teams will still get their spot, but now there are new opportunities for teams to sneak in and make an impact.
In baseball, that’s a big deal. I’ve been watching baseball long enough to know that any team can get hot at just the right time. Last year was a perfect example of it. The 2019 Washington Nationals are a perfect example of this. They had to get into the playoffs as a wild card team and go through heavyweights like the Dodgers en route to their first World Series title.
It can happen in baseball. Great teams can just have a bad day at the park or several. A wild card team can get hot and take that momentum to a championship. The Nationals sent a message to every team in the wild card round this year that it can happen to them, too.
Beyond the opportunity, it’s just more exciting. I know last year had a single-game elimination wild card, but I found that to be somewhat underwhelming. Like I said, any team can have a bad day at the ball park. Sometimes, quality teams just falter on a particular day. That sometimes means the lucky team wins instead of the better team.
I think a three-game playoff series fits perfectly. It helps ensure a team can win or lose on a single fluke. It also gives a team that falters in one game to make up for it the next. It’s a better way of determining who’s the better team in the long run.
Like the NCAA basketball tournament, more teams means more opportunities for a team to go on a historic run or land a historic upset. In a league that is legendary for having top-heavy teams who try to buy their way into a World Series, this can only help the sport.
Now, I know 2020 is a crazy year that has done lasting damage to the sports world. I don’t doubt that professional leagues are eager to go back to the way things were before the pandemic ruined so much.
However, I sincerely hope that Major League Baseball retains this new format for the postseason. I think it’ll do a lot of good for baseball and the sports world, in general. I know there are some logistical issues and I’m sure the players union will want to get their say. I believe there’s a way to do it and ensure everyone benefits.