For the second year in a row, there has been a lot of discussion over Major League Baseball’s playoff format. The league shifted to a 12-team system in their latest CBA and many have expressed concern that it doesn’t do enough to support teams that have strong regular seasons. Manfred told The Athletic’s Evan Drellich Friday that the league will look into the playoff format because so much has been written and said about it, but added that he liked the current setup.
“It will at least motivate a conversation about whether we have it right,” Manfred said prior to Game 1 of the World Series. “I’m sure that conversation will take place in the postseason. Enough has been written and said that we have to think about it and talk about it.
“My own view on this is that our teams play really hard all year long to get into the playoffs,” Manfred continued. “But one of the greatest things about the playoffs in baseball is, anybody can win. And, you know, it’s about the competition that takes place in the postseason. … I don’t think what happened this year is all that out of line with history.”
The Braves, Dodgers and Orioles all finished with 100 or more wins during the regular season, but were eliminated in the Division Series. The Tampa Bay Rays, who finished with 99 wins, were also eliminated in the best-of-five round. In 2022, the Braves, Dodgers and Mets all surpassed 100 wins, but were eliminated in the first round.
The playoff format was a point of contention during the owner’s lockout prior to the 2022 season and the subsequent CBA negotiations. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also spoke to the media Friday and reminded everyone that the league was seeking a 14-team postseason which the players bargained down to 12. The Players Association was concerned during negotiations that if there were too many playoff spots, that teams would do just enough to make the postseason and thus curtail spending.
“We came into that negotiation believing that the system wasn’t broke — the 10 teams,” Clark said. “Players, over the course of those conversations, were willing to go to 12, and so, yes, we made 12-team proposals during the course of that negotiation and all of them were premised on ensuring that the team that won the division over the course of the long run was put in a position that respected and appreciated that.”
The players also proposed best-of-seven Division Series and also suggested that Division Winners playing in the best-of-three Wild Card round start the series with a 1-0 lead.
Expanding to 14 teams would have introduced even more randomness to the situation. Moving the Division Series to a best-of-seven format seems like a good tweak as would giving division winners an edge in the Wild Card round. It is also worth noting that the Wild Card round this season didn't accomplish much beyond ticket sales in four two-game sweeps.
Still, this is the format and all teams know that going in. While the league may be willing to discuss it, real change isn’t likely to come until the next round of CBA negotiations.