The Debate: Expanding the MLB Postseason

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Updated: June 28, 2013
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A couple weeks ago I wrote a article about the DH rule and got a lot of great feedback.  There were a fair number of comments through different means of social media, and I thank you for it.  Of course the DH rule is a very touchy subject that will never have 100% of the baseball fan base happy no matter what is changed or kept as is, and that is something we have to live with. So

I started to ponder another major topic that many baseball fans debate about – playoff expansion. Why talk about playoffs so soon?  Well, people are already talking about it, mainly because the All-Star game is only weeks away, and the summer is going by too fast.

Major League Baseball has always taken pride in being a league that has one of the smallest playoff formats in North American professional sports. Before the 1994 strike, only four teams in all of the majors would make the post-season and have a chance at the Championship. Then after the strike and a bit of league expansion, the rules changed and three divisions and one wildcard would make the playoffs making it a total of 8 teams fighting for it all in October. Starting last season, MLB added a new wildcard spot, which would pit the top two non-division wildcard leading teams in a one game playoff to decide who deserves to play in the division series. I thought it was a great idea and keeps teams in the mix well into September.

Once again, just like the DH rule, the playoff debate has divided baseball fans in two; pro- playoff expansion and anti-playoff expansion. Frankly I am on the side of playoff expansion, I think it is a good idea and it keeps interest in baseball in September and October.  Those are months where focus and discussion begins to move on to other pursuits like the  NFL, NBA, and NHL, in markets where the baseball club is no longer in contention.

I believe it was Charles Bronfman, the ex-Montreal Expos owner who said if you make the playoffs you can have a full stadium for 10 years.  I could be wrong about the quote so let’s call it paraphrasing, but the message is clear. Yes, there are a few teams that make the playoffs and still do not have gigantic interest in the whole season, but let’s face it, some stadiums are just too big for baseball in their market, but that is a topic for another time.

Looking at it from a business standpoint, if MLB expands its playoffs (shortening the season) and have a few more teams participating, fans will notice and come back to their teams and spend a lot of money.  I know many baseball fans would hate this idea, but why not expand it like the NBA and NHL to have 16 teams qualify for the playoffs?  This would mean 8 teams in each league.  You could play a 5-game series in the first round, and a 5 or 7-game series in the second round, before getting to the League Championship series (best of 7) and of course the final two playing in the World Series (best of 7).

Realistically this means knocking a few games off the regular season, but would a 156-game regular season (instead of 162) really hurt?  You’d have longer playoff races, more teams involved and then an extra round of playoffs.  Yes, some of you would dislike that idea, but a lot of people who cheer for a team that is always in the middle of the pack would love this idea. Imagine if these rules had been around when the Expos were around?  I do not think they would have left Montreal.

If the league has to expand two more teams and make it a 32-team league then why not?  That means more money, no more season long interleague play, and more teams making playoff revenues and and increased interest, because more teams have a chance to be the World Series Champ. I know it is a crazy idea, but to compete with the other Major League Sports Leagues, having more games that matter in the MLB could really help that league in the long run. I am still pro-playoff expansion and frankly I would love it if more teams made the playoffs.

What is your stance as a Baseball fan; do you think that playoff expansion would help the league?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

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