With MLB’s Opening Day less than a month away, now might be a good time for the sport to address its current playoff conundrum. Will baseball proceed with its usual 10-team postseason or expand the playoff field to 16, an idea the league had flirted with prior to commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to unilaterally enact a 60-game season?
Since the players union left things up to Manfred after rejecting the proposal submitted by owners last week (which preserved the players’ right to file a grievance), the likelihood is that MLB will revert to its default, 10-team playoff formula. However, that has yet to be determined as the league could still propose an expanded postseason. And if that proposal is made, MLBPA president Tony Clark said he’d be willing to listen.
“I would simply say that if there’s interest to discuss something, I’ll be available to discuss it,” said Clark in his comments to the Associated Press.
Allowing more teams entry to the postseason makes sense from a financial vantage point. MLB is always looking to draw more eyes and allowing more markets to compete in October baseball—the league’s flagship event—would certainly accomplish that. On the flip side, many feel the shortened schedule has already compromised the season’s legitimacy and watering down the playoffs further by enlisting the help of six more potentially undeserving teams could turn baseball’s coronavirus-abbreviated 2020 into a complete free-for-all.
While the 16-team postseason may be relegated to backburner status, the league has already made several changes for the upcoming 2020 slate including new rules for extra innings (to shorten the length of games amid a condensed schedule, each team will start with a runner on second base) and the adoption of a universal DH. To ensure player safety, MLB will also institute a number of health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 with high fives and spitting both prohibited under the league’s new guidelines.
MLB’s 2020 campaign won’t be what we’re used to, but after it looked like baseball may not happen at all this year, I think we can all agree a quirky, reduced-length season is better than the alternative.