With the Houston Astros' cheating scandal still dominating the headlines, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to apparently let a playoff expansion proposal leak in the hopes that it would garner some interest. Unfortunately for him, it was a massive flop.
His idea of instituting a reality TV show type format with seven teams, some of whom would get to select their opponents, made it seem like he had gone off of the deep end. So instead of his outlandish plan, here are three different ideas on how to reshape the MLB playoffs ... if we're even interested in doing that.
3. Keep Five Teams, Make Wild Card Mean More
We know MLB would be reticent to do this, because they love the reality show element of a one-game, winner-take-all Wild Card Game. But, to be honest, one game is no way to settle any team's 162-game fate. We wager they keep the playoffs to five teams per league (who wants under-.500 squads in the postseason, anyway?), but turn the Wild Card Games into best-of-three series, and make all three home games for the higher seed. In that case, being the second Wild Card would be fairly embarrassing, but we wouldn't be expanding the field to the point of dilution.
2. Expand to Eight Teams in Each League
The past few years have been pretty redundant in that there seems to be a handful of teams who keep dominating the playoff field. Fringe teams like the Tampa Bay Rays who play in stacked divisions have had to watch from the couch in October or settle for Wild Card games while divisions like the AL Central have produced perennial first-round exits like the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. Expanding to eight teams and making the first-round a best-of-three series in which the top seed has home-field advantage throughout would give new teams a shot at meaningful playoff baseball.
1. Follow the NFL Format
Instead of expanding to seven playoff teams, MLB should expand to six, similar to what the NFL has in place. The bottom-four seeds in each league can play in two Wild Card games while the top-two seeds get a first-round bye. After that, the divisional series and championship series can each remain in their respective best-of-five and best-of-seven formats. This type of expansion is simple. It adds two exciting Wild Card games into the mix and it expands the playoff field just enough to let one more fringe contender from each league get a taste of October baseball.