One of the biggest changes to come to Major League Baseball this year was an expanded postseason, which significantly increased the number of teams that advanced to October.
Sixteen clubs, split evenly from the American League and National League, had an opportunity to play their way to winning the World Series, as opposed to the usual 10 in a normal season.
The new format — introducing a Wild Card Series — allowed teams such as the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins to end long postseason droughts. It also resulted in additional TV revenue for the league, which was important given the lack of gate revenue this season.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred felt the expanded postseason was an overall success, but admitted he will look to improve it going forward, via Street & Smith’s SBJ Daily:
“The expanded playoffs I thought were fantastic for the sport,” Manfred said. “I think the two-out-of-three series, where we gave our fans a bracket and had baseball around the clock, were really good for us. Sixteen, too many teams going forward. But there is a lot of room between 10 and 16. That room gives you the flexibility to structure the playoff system in a way that preserves the significance of the regular season and gives teams an incentive to play hard all the way through.”
While Manfred was a fan of the expanded postseason, the concept generally received mixed reviews across the league. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was among the players not in favor of the new format, believing it only added to the unpredictability of October.
“At the end of the day, with this playoff format, one through eight, it doesn’t matter what seed you are; you play three games against somebody,” he said prior to the Dodgers’ NL Wild Card Round matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I don’t particularly like it, especially when you have a good team. It doesn’t really give us any advantage at all. But at the end of the day, it is a big build to the postseason and we’re getting ready for that.”
Universal DH being leveraged in exchange for expanded postseason
While Manfred hopes an expanded postseason returns for the 2021 season, nothing is set in stone; The MLB Players Association additionally will have a say on the matter.
The union is not particularly fond of the format, although they may ultimately give in if it means retaining the universal designated hitter — a trade-off currently being discussed by the two sides.
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