MLB is hoping it can put the sign-stealing scandal to bed as quickly as possible, even if it means shaking up how league games are played. It’s possible that, in a little more than two years, MLB will see not five, but seven playoff games in each league with an expansion plan, but that’s not all.
What’s In MLB Playoff Expansion Plan
The way the playoffs would be structured would be changed to give division leaders at the end of the regular season a free pass to play in the Division Series. Of all the things the league could be concentrating on, this seems to be one that should be at the bottom of the list.
The way MLB explains it, the team that has the best record in each league at the end of the regular season would be awarded a bye, allowing them to skip any wild-card action and head directly to the Division Series. The remaining two division winners, as well as the wild card with the next best record, would host three games a piece as part of a wild-card round robin. This essentially results in none of the three bottom wild cards hosting a first-round game.
To stir things up a bit, the runner-up division winner – the one who has the second-best record – will be able to choose who it plays first against the three aforementioned wild card teams. The next division leader would then pick, leaving two wild card teams to play each other. It’s just like dodge ball in high school, with a twist.
But, it gets better. Not only will the way teams are chosen for battle change, but it will also be turned into a media spectacle. The selections will be put on center MLB stage and broadcast on TV (with broadcasters purchasing rights, of course), in order to try to entice fans and bring them closer to the action.
Why Will MLB Wait to 2022?
MLB could most likely implement a system like this sooner, but there’s a reason it’s waiting until 2022. The league has a new exclusive deal with Fox to cover the World Series, two Division Series and a League Championship Series that runs through 2028. However, a separate rights contract with Turner and ESPN ends in 2021. Pretty convenient, since it will give MLB the opportunity to try to negotiate more a higher price to air the new lineup. With sports gambling now such a hot topic, and more sports broadcasters available to offer coverage, it makes for interesting talks. Pretty clever on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s part.
The new structure isn’t yet set in stone. Before it can be implemented, it has to be discussed with the MLB Players Association and somehow worked into the framework of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). However, as luck would have it, the CBA is also set to expire after the upcoming season. It just keeps getting better for MLB’s chances at scoring the new system.
League teams might be ready to sign off on the proposal without too much difficulty. The idea of having more opportunities to make it to the playoffs would appeal to anyone. It also could mean that the regular season may get a little more interesting, as there would now be more motivation to dig in and make a better effort with a real shot at the playoffs on the horizon.
The best-of-three round with the wild card teams also means that there would be no travel involved. As a result, it would be possible to stack multiple games on a single day, such as Monday through Wednesday, or Tuesday through Thursday. The ideal situation for the league would be to have these games completed by Thursday in order to roll right into the first two Division Series games without skipping a beat.
This is only a rough draft of what could be coming. MLB brass knows that the league needs to do something to keep fans interested; whether or not this is the solution remains to be seen.