MESA, Ariz. - In his never-ending attempt to make baseball unrecognizable to its core fans, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly is planning to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 and let some of them choose their first-round opponents.
The obvious goal is to create more late-season interest in playoff races, generate more revenue from networks televising postseason games and show the world that outside-the-box ideas are the only way to grow the sport.
The reaction was near unanimous after the plan was leaked to the New York Post: Manfred is a complete idiot.
It's just a plan for now and will need approval of the players union, which naturally wants more playoff games so players can rake in more money. If agreed upon, the format could go into effect as soon as the 2022 season.
"Expanding the playoffs in a sensible way is something worth discussing when part of a much more comprehensive conversation about the current state of our game," union chief Tony Clark said in a statement.
Sensible isn't a word usually associated with MLB, which changes rules so often you would think it was the XFL.
MLB currently has two wild-card teams in each league that fight for a playoff spot, only to face a do-or-die scenario to advance to the division series. It takes only one screw-up or bad bounce to lose, so sometimes the luckier team advances, not necessarily the better.
In the Manfred plan, the one-game playoff - thankfully - would become obsolete.
The teams with the best record in each league would get a bye, and the remaining 12 teams - six in each league - would compete in three-game wild-card-round series to advance to division series.
Now comes the head-scratching part. The division winner with the second-best record in each league would choose its opponent from among the three lowest-seeded wild-card teams, then the division winner with the third-best record would pick its opponent from among the remaining two lowest-seeded wild cards. The remaining two wild-card teams would face each other. The higher seeds in each series would play all their wild-card-round games at home.
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Naturally, it all would be treated like a reality show, televised on the final night of the regular season in the fashion of the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Picture what it would be like: "We'll get to Theo Epstein's pick for the Cubs' first-round opponent. But first, let's hear some thoughts from Brian Kenny and the "Mad Dog" about whether they should avoid facing the Reds' vaunted starters and choose between the Mets or Braves."
After 20 minutes of loud arguments and recitations of players' WAR values, Epstein would step to the mic and make his choice in dramatic fashion. Then they'll do it again for Nationals President Mike Rizzo before it's on to the AL for more nonstop debate about whom the Astros and Twins will choose from among the Red Sox, Rays and A's.
Oh, boy. What fun.
Manfred seems intent on leaving his mark as an innovator, having already made a major change this year by forcing managers to leave relievers in for three batters or until the end of the inning, whether the reliever is lost on the mound or not. This won't speed up the game, but it certainly will rile fans if the reliever is crushed by the first two hitters he faces or throws eight straight balls.
Baseball doesn't need a selection show or four more wild-card teams. The only real change it needs is to eliminate the wild-card game and make that a three-game series so one fluke loss doesn't end your season.
Of course, the addition of four teams would increase the possibility of all of MLB's glamour teams - the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs - making the postseason. That would theoretically increase ratings and make the owners, players union and networks happy.
Leaking the plan now allows everyone a chance to get used to the idea before it's implemented in the next collective bargaining agreement after 2021 while also providing MLB with a distraction from the Astros and Red Sox cheating scandal that has dominated headlines for months.
Will fans' near-universal dislike of the plan make any difference?
If none of the deep thinkers in MLB's New York offices could convince Manfred it's a dumb idea, it's doubtful he'll listen to fans.