Commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred has announced a plan to expand the postseason field.
For those uninformed, Manfred proposes the playoff field expand to seven teams per league, with the team with the top record in the respective league getting a first-round bye. Further, each of the six first-round series’ will last three games instead of one, with all three games played at the home stadium of the team with the higher record. This will impact the Marlins perhaps more than most, considering their consistently smallish payroll.
In addition to this madness, Manfred proposes that after the top team is awarded the bye, the team with the next highest record will pick which team they want to face in the opening round. This matter of choice is unprecedented in the annals of modern professional sports. From the National Football League, to the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and even the National College Athletic Association’s field of 68, the matter of choice has never come into question. Not, at least, when it comes to who your opponent will be in the most important series’ of the season.
Michael over at Marlinsbaseball.com had a different plan.
"How about instead of this idea, we just turn the Wild Card game into a home run derby? If this format had been implemented previously, then as recently as 2017, TWO sub-.500 teams in the American League would have made the playoffs."
No doubt, Michael was poking fun at the absurdity of the plan. Trevor Bauer was even less understanding:
Bauer has a point, to be sure. Even so, expanding the field will allow more teams to be competitive later into the pennant chase. Marlins fans in particular, with a now-16-year postseason drought in force, should be able to hold onto their hopes a little longer. IHateRBC at the Marlins Discord chat weighed in with his opinion:
"Letting half of the teams into the playoffs sounds terrible to me. When you have a 3rd of teams rebuilding anyway, it doesn’t even seem like a reward anymore. It seems like the middling teams will be incentivized to stay middling. Why invest? Why go for it? The playoffs are already a short sample size, and it wouldn’t be worth spending to improve over that set of series… it punishes competing."
To be sure, expanding the field to include nearly half of the 30 major league teams will keep all parties interested late into the season. With more teams going into buy-now mode at the trade deadline, and fewer going into sell mode, options will become that much more limited.
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Teams with even a ghost of a chance will be resistant to selling off. With the trade deadline a full two months before the end of the season, I’d imagine only four-to-six teams will be willing to concede defeat at that point.
The plan also implicitly reduces the number of teams tanking, as with an enlarged playoff field, more teams have a chance to make an impact come October.
As a big-market team with a small-market fanbase, could the Marlins capitalize on the enlarged chance to go deeper into the season? It’s likely, but it still doesn’t ring quite right in the court of public opinion. Do we really want more playoff teams?
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for reading, whatever your opinion.