Major League Baseball expanded its postseason field for the 2020 season to include a record 16 teams while also introducing a new best-of-three Wild Card Series.
The format was short-lived as MLB reverted back to its previous playoff format last year in which only 10 clubs advanced to October. That wasn’t due to a lack of interest on the league’s side, who tried working out a deal with the Players Association to keep the expanded postseason around.
Fresh off their first World Series championship since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers tied a franchise record with 106 wins this past season, but had their streak of consecutive National League West titles snapped at eight by the San Francisco Giants, who won 107 games.
It meant the Dodgers had to survive the win-or-go-home Wild Card Game just for an opportunity to face the Giants in the NL Division Series. While L.A. defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the one-game playoff, the notion of being eliminated so suddenly raised questions if change is necessary.
“For me, I look at things and what’s the solution. I haven’t done enough work on what’s a better solution,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said. “Can I sit here and say this is not ideal after you win X amount of games? Not ideal, but it is what it is, and I just don’t want our guys and expect our guys to think otherwise.
“Until they change it, this is the way the format is. I’m sure you have better insight than I do. I just don’t know. I don’t have a better solution right now.”
Mookie Betts also noted he is open to MLB implementing a new playoff format. “I mean, that’s a whole ordeal in itself. I can’t change it right now. We’ll just see kind of what goes forward,” he said of the league possibly going to an expanded postseason.
“There’s going to be a lot of great seasons that guys, teams don’t make playoffs or are put in this spot. It doesn’t really matter. You have to win the division. You have to do whatever you have to do to make playoffs. We’ll see how the format changes or if it does. But if it does, cool. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too.”
An expanded playoff format returning for the 2022 season and beyond appears to be a safe bet as MLB reportedly floated the possibility to the union in one of their final proposals before the lockout began.
Scherzer not in favor of expanded postseason
While Roberts and Betts would be open to MLB expanding the postseason format, former Dodgers ace Max Scherzer is happy with the current structure. “The playoff format we have in baseball right now, I love it. You’ve got to win your division,” he said last October.
“It kept us and the Giants playing as hard as we possibly could, all the way to the last day of the season. We had the best records in baseball and you had teams that were trying to fight into the Wild Card.
“When you look at the league as a whole, everybody was really competitive all the way to the end, so the format works. The format keeps everybody on edge and keeps everybody trying to win all the way to the end.
“As for expanding the playoffs, that’s a question we’re going to have to ask ourselves. Are there extra teams that missed the playoffs this year that we felt should be in the playoffs because they really do have a chance to be able to win the World Series?
“That’s a question we as Major League Baseball players have to ask ourselves and really think about it hard, because we already have a good playoff system.”
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