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A 14-Team Playoff Would Be a Good Thing...For 2020

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2019 ALCS Game 2 - New York Yankees v. Houston Astros Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the MLB season still in flux for 2020, it appears likely that there will be some sort of change that is made to the format of the season. These changes could consist of a shorter season, more doubleheaders, a removal of the all star break, or now, an expanded playoff bracket. Recent reports state that there have been discussions about expanding the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams for this season in order to add more important games as well as increase revenue. This is a reasonable response to the effects that Coronavirus has had on the season this year; however, this should not become a permanent change.

This proposal makes sense for a number of reasons. To begin with, if the MLB season is shortened then an expanded playoff bracket would give more teams a chance to prove themselves. If the amount of regular season games is reduced then it will become more difficult for teams to separate themselves during the regular season. There is a chance that the season will be reduced by up to two months at least. This could mean that somewhere around 50 games could be removed from each team’s schedule. It is unlikely that this will happen as the MLB seems set on making sure the season stays the same length, especially if doubleheaders become more common and the all star break is removed. However, if this does indeed happen then it would make sense to allow more teams to make the playoffs in order to tell who is for real and who is not.

Additionally, by allowing 14 teams to make the playoffs, the MLB would be able to increase its revenue by a somewhat significant margin. This would be a good thing considering how much money the MLB would lose if the season was shortened. It would also be more entertaining for baseball fans as the season would be extended a bit.

The problem with this proposal is if it becomes permanent. As I just mentioned, allowing 14 teams to make the playoffs allows for increased revenue and more big games. This is something that would be very financially appealing to the MLB. If this proposal gets enacted, and it works, then the MLB could potentially be willing to make this more than a one year change. This would not be a positive change, though, as allowing such a large number of teams to make the playoffs after a 162 game season seems unnecessary. The long season of 162 games is enough time to sort out who is good and who is not. By allowing 14 teams to make the playoffs, more average teams will be allowed to compete for a World Series title and the season would be unnecessarily prolonged.

Making the MLB playoffs more similar to the NFL playoffs (14 teams) and the NBA playoffs (16 teams) is not a goal that should be pursued for more than this season. If the season is shortened this year then it makes sense to extend the playoffs to an additional four teams. Even with the financial difficulties that can come to the league with a suspended season, this proposal makes sense. However, the potential financial success of a larger playoff bracket this season should not tempt the league into enacting this proposal on a permanent basis as it would allow less deserving teams to make the playoffs and extend a season that already plays into November.