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Elephant Rumblings: MLBPA willing to expand postseason for lockout leverage

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MLB: NLCS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the weekend, Athletics Nation!

While things are still quiet as we wait for MLB and MLBPA to resume their lockout negotiations, there are a few eventualities that we can expect once play does resume. A key part of the bargaining, and something we already got a taste of in the 2020 season, is expanded playoffs.

While chances of seeing a 16-team postseason like in 2020 are low, the major phases of lockout negotiations we have seen so far have had pushes for 12 or 14 teams in the playoffs. Additional playoff series are a major boon to the team owners, as they earn a ton off of the high-priced tickets, as well as from TV and advertising revenue. MLB owners have pushed hard for 14 teams in the postseason, as it helps spread the wealth across teams.

Through the bartering we have seen so far, the players have been reticent to agree to playoff expansion, with a 12-team pool seemingly given the go ahead prior to talks breaking down this week. Players seem largely against the expansion as the more teams that enter the postseason, the lower the level of competition becomes. The chances of a 107-win team like the 2021 Giants getting taken out early in the playoffs by a lucky 82-win Phillies would be high, and that is not a favourable outcome for players if it removes incentive for teams to try as hard.

On Friday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that MLBPA may be entertaining the idea of accepting a 14-team postseason to gain ground in other areas.

As further detailed by Anthony Franco at MLB Trade Rumors, that possibility for momentum in negotiations could be what it takes for players to get a figure closer to what they were looking for with the competitive balance tax. Aside from financials and relative talent, one of the sticking points for the players against 14-team playoffs was the structure of the postseason tournament. Thirty MLB teams in six divisions don’t evenly sort into seven-sided brackets meaning that teams who perform well in the season are likely to receive a bye through the first round.

Players have been open about the fact that if they play less than 162 games this year an expanded postseason is off the table for 2022, even if agreed to in the CBA for future seasons. With the first two series of the season crossed off the calendar we shouldn’t expect extra rounds in this year’s postseason (if it even gets played at all), but starting next year plans will be in motion for a few more teams to join the October action.

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