Report: MLB 'Seriously' Considering Expanded Playoff Field Starting in 2022

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2020

A pile of batting practice balls are seen as Cleveland Indians players work out during batting practice for Friday's Game 3 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Major League Baseball's playoff field may be expanding as soon as 2022.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the league is "seriously weighing" increasing the number of teams from each league that reaches the postseason from five to seven starting with the 2022 campaign.

In such a system, the team with the best record in the National and American League would receive a bye in the Wild Card Round. That would leave two other division winners and four wild-card teams in each league, and the two division winners and wild-card team with the best record would host every game of a best-of-three series.

Whichever division winner with the best record of the two that have to play in the Wild Card Round would get to pick its opponent from the three lower wild-card teams. The other division winner would get second pick, and the remaining two wild cards would face each other.

In addition to giving more teams the chance to win a championship, this would lead to plenty of bulletin-board material heading into the postseason.

Sherman noted there would be a televised show on the final night of the regular season that would broadcast the selection process for the Wild Card Round. It isn't difficult to envision a scenario in which a team would feel slighted that a division winner chose to play it as an easier opponent and use that as additional motivation heading into the series.

There cannot be any playoff changes without bargaining with the Players Association, but Sherman pointed to factors both sides can support, including potential increases in attendance with more important games late in the season as division winners fight for byes, less incentive to tank because of more playoff openings and a willingness to spend more because of those openings.

More playoff games and higher stakes in late-season games can also be used as a bargaining chip from the league's perspective when it comes to new television deals.

MLB's deals with Turner and ESPN expire after the 2021 campaign, as does the current collective bargaining agreement. 


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