The field is now set as eight teams from both the AL and NL have qualified for the 2020 postseason. Sixteen teams in total. Two of which have losing records (Astros and Brewers). First time in Major League when over half the league is playing for postseason glory.
On one hand, the expanded playoff field does add a bit of drama and intrigue. More teams in the tournament means that there will be more fan bases engaged in the wonder known as October baseball. It’s honestly quite addicting in a sense. Like, who doesn’t want to see their team in the postseason where anything can happen? I’m, for one, still reeling about the Astros improbably losing all four home games in last year’s World Series. Weird things happen in baseball all of the time and October is no exception.
That said, it ultimately cheapens the postseason experience. The Astros and Brewers, both under .500, don’t deserve a spot in the playoffs under normal circumstances. The randomness of baseball goes even one step further, for example, where the opening round is just three games. In a sport where the unexpected happens at a higher frequency than basketball or football, the best team may not even advance out of the opening round. It isn’t hard to envision a scenario where a weaker team happens to win two out of three games against a better one. Fans seem to agree as they overwhelmingly vote against keeping the postseason structure for more than one season.
As currently situated, it sounds like Rob Manfred doesn’t mind keeping the kids expanded postseason field beyond 2020. More postseason teams means an additional financial windfall for both the league and owners. A win-win except for the players and fans. Yes, I said what I said. Or wrote, in this case. For one, teams are likely to be more reluctant to utilize resources to compete. Being close enough even if a team fails to qualify will probably suffice for lost owners. In turn, player’s salaries may be artificially suppressed as the demand for their services drops. The lack of urgency across the sport is then felt by the fans, who see their team not take the situation at hand with a bit more excitement. If left unchecked, it could create an ugly issue for baseball that should’ve never occurred in the first place.