After a 60-game season, more than half the teams will make the MLB playoffs, which begin Tuesday. That may even include teams that finish .500 or worse, a watered down version of the postseason so that baseball can make back television money it lost when games weren’t played during the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s all well and good and understandable for 2020. But when ESPN and Turner see the extra money that comes from an additional round of best-of-three series, do you really think they’re not going to want it for next year and beyond?
Baseball is going to follow the money, and the results will be disastrous.
MLB’s popularity is waning among younger audiences, so lets’ make a 162-game regular season matter less.
In 2019, the Houston Astros made the playoffs with a 107-55 record and lost the World Series in seven games to the Washington Nationals. But if expanded playoff rules applied, Houston would have played a wild card round matchup against the 78-84 Texas Rangers. If Houston lost two of three to its in-state rivals, that would’ve been it. All that hard work for nothing.
If you were a fan of a team so far above .500, why would you watch the last two months of the season? People criticize the NBA for its regular season not mattering, but what if you took the NBA’s postseason model and doubled the amount of regular season games? That’s what MLB would be doing.
The NBA may have 16 playoff teams, but all their playoff series are best-of-seven, rewarding regular season success. With a best-of-three first round, baseball’s expanded playoff model actually punishes regular season success. The Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the regular season, but still have to beat a team it finished 12 or 13 games ahead of in a 60-game season two of three to make the final eight. That’s a system that rewards mediocrity, not winning.
Hosting all three first round games isn’t nearly enough of a reward for the best teams and MLB knows it. But taking the money has always been the end all be all for baseball, consequences be damned. Baseball says it wants to change the game for the better over the coming years, but expanding the playoffs beyond 2020 would be accomplishing the exact opposite. Bet the money’s real nice, though.
Source: Forbes – Business