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Expanded Playoffs: Yuck Or Yuckier?

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Six
“We won the round robin pre-wild-card earn-a-bye game!!!!!!!!”
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

First off, I should introduce myself because apparently I’m new here. Hi Coral, my name is Nico and you might know me from 15 years before you showed up. I write about goats, “mockolate chip” cookies (not delicious, by the way), turn words into other words in an allegedly humorous way, and occasionally mix in some baseball analysis. It’s a pleasure to meet you. By the way, I didn’t need a large rectangle around everything I say but thanks anyway.

Sorry I haven’t written for a couple weeks. It’s not because I couldn’t think of a damn thing to write about, it was more that there were so many compelling angles I just wasn’t able to choose. “Curliest Nose Hairs In A’s History” seemed like a truly fascinating topic and yet was it more worthy of space than “7 Players We Should Forget More Completely”? #alexhallslifesucksrightnow

As you know, MLB’s main quest is to ruin baseball entirely so that fans won’t want to watch but can’t anyway due to blackouts. Meanwhile, they are battling with MLBPA, whose primary objective is to make 10 players rich and ignore everyone else while complaining a lot.

Both sides are excellent at their jobs, and progress is only slow because of the need to adjust pencils and notebooks “just so” after every negotiated point. To speed things back up, though, everyone has agreed that instead of taking 4 steps to the bathroom they will just give a signal and pee their pants.

Today I focus on the question of whether the regular season should be greatly devalued or utterly bastardized. From this writer’s point of view, the first wild card was actually fun and exciting, offering glimmers of August hope to teams otherwise too far on the periphery to claim relevance. Only one more team in each league actually played in October, but about 5 teams maintained hope and a “you never know” path that kept seasons interesting. You essentially allowed 13 of the teams additional drama while only giving 1/10 of the teams a wild card spot.

Then came the second wild card, which was really a chance for a mediocre team to rise up for a day claiming to be “the real wild card team!” and forcing a slightly more deserving club to fend them off in a duel. The post-season’s inclusivity score rose from 26.7% to 33.3% while the threshold for earning at least a 163rd game fell another couple of wins.

So what happens when you fill the room with geniuses who brought you imaginary leadoff doubles and outrage over service time manipulation they created? You get a showdown on whether the playoff field should be expanded to 12 or 14. For those of you into percents (you kinky devils) that’s 40% of the teams or 46.7%.

It’s also a logistical nightmare requiring some heinous combination of byes, “round robin” preliminary tournaments, and “A plays B to see who plays C” structures leading to the all-important question of “Do we play on Veteran’s Day or is that a travel day?” Knowing these clowns, this problem will ultimately be solved by, “Y’know, let’s just go ahead and make it 16 teams.”

Granted, it would be amusing to keep expanding the playoffs by 2 teams every year and watch the Seattle Mariners always find a way to be just under that year’s threshold but not at the expense of a system that produces — as some of the proposal would actually yield — Rob Manfred proclaiming at a press conference, “The Boston Red Sox have selected the Cleveland Guardians as their first round opponent! Wait, this just in...groups of foster parents just voiced objection to the name and the team is now known as the Cleveland Generics.”

So the two sides bicker over dueling terrible options and today I ask you: if the playoff format had to be 12 or 14 teams, because money, and you had to pick a number and an accompanying format, how do you propose we move forward into the next CBA? I know, I know, it’s like asking you to pick out your favorite Cindi’s Mediterranean recipe and the choices start with Spamakopita or Moosaka and you’re this close to just becoming a vegetarian to avoid the whole conversation. But expanded playoffs seem inevitable, so ... how can it be done least badly?