So, if the quarantine runs long enough, how do you make a compelling baseball season in, say, two months time? How do you make it simple and fair and fun and acceptable to the baseball community?
You steal a page from soccer.
The MLB, if they want to be honest about their situation, should strongly consider a World Cup format. Here’s how it would work:
To start, teams would have a “group stage” vs their division. All teams would play a three-game series, home and away, versus every other team in the division. That would give you a 24 game “regular season” to hash out the best teams in the division. The top two teams in each division would make the playoffs, with two wild card spots in each league—allowing 16 teams in total.
To break ties, the MLB would use similar rules to FIFA. Run differential, total runs scored, head to head record, etc.
Once you have your eight teams per league, now we move on to the knockout stage.
Now obviously, this isn’t soccer we’re dealing with. It’s baseball. Single elimination isn’t really a good fit here. That’s fine. I think the best answer is run seven-game series the entire way—and for a couple of reasons.
1. The more games played, the more legitimate the title will feel. After all, this is a league which typically runs 162 games a season. If you have to qualify in the group stage and win four seven-game series', that’s no fluke.
2. The MLB will want to recoup as much money as possible. More playoff games = more revenue.
Overall, the team that wins the World Series would have played up to 52 games of baseball—all of which would be done in a playoff type atmosphere.
Is it a massive adjustment? Sure, but given how baseball has shown a willingness to change in recent years this is an ideal way for them to show a progressive attitude and make baseball a must-watch event in the fall.
Don’t forget, when baseball comes back the NBA and NHL will likely be back, the NFL could be starting up, and college football as well. It’s going to be like starving yourself for a week before Thanksgiving---and baseball is more cranberry sauce than mashed potatoes.
They’ll need a way to stand out while also providing a balanced and agreeable product. The MLB World Cup is the best answer. All hail the MLB world Cup.