October Blueprint: A Grand Proposal For An Improved MLB Postseason System
October can't come any sooner for fans of the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, and Texas Rangers. The American League has little to no excitement on the postseason hunt in September with teams like the Red Sox and White Sox playing for any realistic hope that just isn't there to be had.
Major League Baseball is in a difficult spot when it comes down to September every year. The National Football League opens play in September and if a team such as the Red Sox or White Sox is out of the hunt you pretty much forget baseball to focus on your Patriots or Bears.
Personally to play 162 games in the regular season and only have four teams from each league pass through to the next round of the season makes it impossible for teams to end playoff droughts. Teams like the Washington Nationals or Kansas City Royals will never make it to the playoffs in this system. Not with the wealthier teams dominating in their divisions with no space for them to make any ground up.
Now with Major League Baseball taking the initiative to end the postseason before Halloween, any such fix to the playoffs would have to be relatively short. So what can be done to fix up a leaking faucet of a playoff system? MLB could start by adding a pair of teams into the mix giving 6 teams a shot at the playoffs from each league.
American League/National League
Team #1 (Best Record); Bye Team #1 (Best Record); Bye
Team #2 (Second Best Record); Bye Team #2 (Second Best Record); Bye
Team #3 (Winner advances to LDS) Team #3 (Winner advances to LDS)
Team #4 (Loser goes home) Team #4 (Loser goes home)
Team #5 (Winner advances to LDS) Team #5 (Winner advances to LDS)
Team #6 (Loser goes home) Team #6 (Loser goes home)
Italics: Teams play in Wild Card Series (best-of-three)
Essentially you would have your usual three division winners and now three wild card winners instead of a solo wild card team from each league. The top two teams from each league, if you were translating to this season, Rays and Yankees in the American League and let's say Phillies and Reds in the National League would get a "bye" for the first round of the playoffs.
This extra rest adds incentive to play well in the regular season and finish with a better record. This can be seen as one reason teams rarely reach 100 wins in a season mainly because the All-Star game awarding home-field advantage to the winner. Teams usually rest their players down the stretch once they clinch a spot and that's what eliminates the triple-digit wins from the standings.
Beyond the top two teams from each league, you have a pair of "Wild Card Series" games in each league. In order to keep the postseason within the month of October, the "Wild Card Series" should only be a best-of-three format. After it's said and done, the best team from both leagues faces the lowest seeded team (team with lowest record) and vice-versa with the other two teams in both leagues.
In other words, the postseason would revert back to its original format with the LDS (League Division Series) in a best-of-five and a LCS (League Championship Series) in a best-of-seven. The World Series would be the grand finale to a baseball season in its usual best-of-seven format.
In using this formula for the National League we would see the likes of the Braves, Reds, Padres, Phillies, Rockies, and Giants all in the playoffs this season. Now this would certainly take away from the luster of making it into the playoffs but it would make for an exciting run to see who can avoid the "Wild Card Series" and have a bye to start off instead. Additionally, more teams would be involved in the playoff mix such as the Cardinals or Marlins although both are further back than the rest of the pack this season.
In the American League, in addition to the Red Sox and White Sox, a team like the Blue Jays or Athletics could be in the mix. They're records may not be approximate to Boston and Chicago but it would be better if they knew there were more spots up for grabs.
The reality is that September is seen a trial period for the grand majority of Major League teams. Rosters expand to 40 players and you have an array of players make their debut or essentially try out for a spot next season. It takes away from having teams go all out at the end versus just laying low and parking your season in. Baseball needs more markets involved while it tries to stay afloat against the National Football League in its final weeks. Having six teams in each league make it to the postseason would give more teams hope they can be in the Fall Classic. Since the league doesn't have a salary cap it makes it hard for low market franchises to ever dream about October, yes, Pirates, Royals, and Nationals I'm talking to you and I hope Major League Baseball is listening too.
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