When I was a boy, four teams made the playoffs in Major League Baseball. This was up from just the two World Series teams that made it between 1903 and 1969. In 1995, that number was expanded to eight, which made it much more difficult to reach and win the World Series for the teams that were favored to do so. So, maybe not great, but at least the vast majority of teams still went home as soon as the regular season ended. Well, maybe some of them didn’t go home. Some probably went on vacation. Others may have stopped off to visit family or friends on the way home. Odds are that a couple even went to see their mistresses. There are many places that many of those players may have gone other than home. But the point is they did not move on to play in the postseason, which is as it should have been.
But then in 2012, the number of postseason teams was expanded to 10, an idea which initially infuriated me. But when I saw that the wild card teams would have to play each other while the division winners would automatically advance to the Division Series round, my rage subsided. And I thought to myself, “Okay so 10 teams are in the postseason, but a full two-thirds of teams still do not make it. And the best teams that made it don’t have to face each other in this one-game playoff. And these one-game playoffs are rather exciting for the wild card teams. I can live with this.”
But then 2020 happened. We have a pandemic. We have social unrest. It is a difficult time, and we had no sports for months, making it even more difficult for those of us that care about such things. So when baseball finally returned to us, I was overjoyed. But then on the very day that the game returned, Major League Baseball announced that rather than 10 teams making the playoffs this year, there will be 16. Sixteen teams out of 30. Ridiculous! It ruined my enjoyment of the first games that night. So filled with fury was I that I attempted to find baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Twitter just so that I could berate him. Unfortunately, it seemed that Rob Manfred was anticipating that I would be looking for him, and therefore had deactivated his Twitter account that very day. I suppose it’s also possible that he never had a Twitter account in the first place, as I had never searched for Rob Manfred’s Twitter account before. Regardless, when I searched for his name on Twitter, I did find that I was not alone in my feelings about Mr. Manfred, Ruiner of Our National Pastime. Many people were already angry at him and they were saying horrible things about him. Terrible things. Awful things. And all of them were well deserved, I’m sure.
But without being able to contact Mr. Manfred, Destroyer of All that Is Good, directly on Twitter, I found myself unable to properly vent my immense rage, and I didn’t know what to do other than make the lives of my loved ones miserable by sharing my fury with them. This was especially difficult as most of my family does not care at all about baseball, which is already an infuriating thing for me to have to deal with. So you can imagine how distressed we all were at the situation: me ranting and raging about how ridiculous it is that baseball is allowing 16 teams into the playoffs, and my family confused, puzzled, and frustrated that they had to listen to me talk about baseball. It was a bad scene all around. Luckily, I realized I could write this article here and share with you, the readers, my immense and unending rage at the fact that baseball is now sending the majority of its teams in this short season into the playoffs. One reason MLB gave for this format was that because it’s such a short season, this will allow for more baseball. Well, if they wanted more baseball, they could have made the regular season just slightly longer, and allowed all 30 teams to play a handful more games than just the 60 that they are playing this year, and then followed that with the normal ten team postseason. When I read a rationale like this, my fury only grows. My level of fury is getting rather unhealthy at this point.
The whole problem, you see, is that baseball is a game where on any given day, the worst teams can beat the best teams, which is why they typically play 162 games in the first place to see who deserves to reach the postseason. And it’s why the team with the best record in the regular season usually does not end up winning the World Series since teams only need to win three or four games to win a postseason series. So the more teams you add to the postseason mix, the greater the likelihood that the less deserving teams will advance, while the best teams do not. Now that we have 16 teams in the postseason, odds are that at least one or two of the teams that make the postseason will actually be there with a losing record. It’s something we see often in the NBA and the NHL, where they always have 16 teams make the playoffs. The difference in those sports is that superior teams beat inferior teams with great regularity, so there is little to no chance that a team with a losing record will end up in the finals, much less win the championship. In baseball, that is not the case. If you have a starting pitcher or two get hot, anything can happen.
Fans have been sitting patiently through this pandemic, hoping that their beloved game will return. And how does baseball finally reward their patience? By unloading a bloated postseason where the best teams could easily be eliminated, not in a best-of-five, or a normal best-of-seven series, mind you, but in a super quick best-of-three series in the first round, in which every team will play. Well, my blood is boiling. This is a very uncomfortable situation, being able to feel my blood literally boil. And this is not to say that there are not worse things in the world than baseball allowing 16 teams into the postseason. There most certainly are. There are many terrible and sad things in the world. However, those things are generally harder to fix. All baseball had to do to alleviate this problem was… not a damn thing different than what it usually does! And we would have our nice 10 team baseball postseason.
Although a 60-game regular season is short, that would still be enough games that by and large, the best teams would be the ones to make the playoffs and we could all enjoy a dramatic, relatively normal postseason, albeit with no fans of the non-cardboard variety in attendance. Instead, I sit trembling in fear – fear that a losing team (or a barely above .500 team for that matter) will beat the best team with the best record in a three-game series, and also fear that my brain will explode when that happens. And if that does indeed come to pass, let it be known that Rob Manfred, Desecrater of All That Is Holy, is responsible for my untimely and overly dramatic demise.