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New MLB Playoff Format Leaves Fans Mad. Why?

Major League Baseballs lined up together // Image by Lesly Juarez via Unsplash.

The MLB playoffs are off and running, and we as fans are seeing top teams sputter against teams that barely snuck into the October Classic. Why is this happening? Why did the playoff format change in the first place? What can be changed to appeal to angry fans? These are questions I will give my perspective on today.


Why are top teams losing?


The most common reason fans have for why these regular season juggernauts are losing to 80-win teams in October is that the teams who have byes are rusty from not playing for a week and the wildcard teams are coming into the ALDS blazing hot from their wildcard wins. I feel mixed about this opinion. As teams become more analytical in their practices, simulated games are becoming more and more common in the time between games. This is to keep hitters and pitchers sharp before their playoff series. I think it is fair to question why if a wildcard team sweeps the other they are granted 2 rest days before their next and I also give merit to those who will say simulated games can not really simulate a playoff-like atmosphere. But I will say this, if you are blaming your team’s loss on the fact that they have too much time in between games you are overlooking the fact that your team gets way more time to prepare, mentally focus, and recover their bodies.

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Why did the playoff format change?


At the end of the 2021 season, MLB fans felt that the 1 game wild card was fluky and too luck-dependent to end the season of a team after they had played 162 games. The heads of major league baseball went to the drawing board and ended up giving the baseball world a complete shake-up of the playoff format. They added 1 extra team per league making it so 14/30 teams made it instead of just 12. As a result of this addition, they made it so the worst division leader would have to play the 7th seed wild card team instead of the automatic bye they received in seasons past. This was done in my opinion to make more money. It’s no secret that baseball is not as popular as the NFL or the NBA and until they made vast rule changes this year the attendance and viewership rates were on the decline. I believe that the league was trying to find ways to boost viewership and increase sales on merchandising and advertising. Adding 8 games to the playoffs results in hundreds of millions of extra money that the league did not have before. From a business standpoint, it makes sense.


How can they appeal to angry fans?


First off the fans who are angry with the new playoff format or at least the ones screaming the loudest in my opinion are just sore losers who are mad their team got embarrassed in front of the whole baseball world. I will say however they do have some merit with their arguments. Giving a wildcard team (if they sweep their opponent) 2 whole days in between series is bewildering me and I believe that a simple scheduling change would bring down the hatred of the new format. I propose to schedule the time between the wild card series and the divisional series differently. I would make it so that if the wild card series went to game 3 the winner would have to immediately play their next opponent the very next day. This would heavily incentivize sweeping their wild card opponent so they would have a day of rest in between. It would give the “rusty” players for the divisional side one less day or rest. And condense the entire playoff format that some say is taking forever.




No baseball fan is ever going to agree with every other baseball fan. My dad wants it back to 1995 and before when only the division leaders would advance to the playoffs making 14 teams go down to 8. One thing we all can agree on is that October baseball never fails to entertain us and is something we should not take for granted.

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