When MLB and the Players Association first started discussing a summer start to the 2020 season, it came with an expanded postseason. Instead of each league getting five teams in the postseason, each league would now get seven. Instead of one wild card game in each league, there would now be three, as four wild card teams competed in a single-elimination tournament.
The reasoning was simple. In a pandemic-shortened season, the league wanted to make sure that the best teams made the postseason, even if they got out of the gates slowly, as the defending champion Washington Nationals did a year ago.
Ultimately it fell through, because the sides couldn’t agree on a deal, and instead the commissioner enacted a 60-game season with the same rules that were originally intended for the year. The only changes — such as the universal designated hitter, the extra-innings runner on base, and the scheduling realignment — came to be as part of the health and safety protocol.
And now, at the 11th hour, negotiations have reemerged for an expanded postseason. Only this time the two sides are jumping right past the mark of 14 total teams, and heading for 16 instead.
Sources: MLB and union are re-engaging on the possibility of expanded playoffs for this season. Has to be done before first pitch 25 hours from now, but there seems to be optimism. Hope was to go from 10 playoff teams to 16.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 22, 2020
It’s not clear what the playoff format would be. I can only think of two ways to make it work with eight teams on each side. Either MLB opts for an NBA-style traditional tournament, with full series in the first round, or they have five wild card teams, with the first three earning a first-round bye.
Update: It appears to be the former. This could get wild.
If MLB, PA agree to a 16-team playoff field for 2020, that likely means, given the calendar limits, that the first round would be best-of-three. The heavy favorites, Dodgers and Yankees, might be playing for their lives right away.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 22, 2020
The San Francisco Giants would certainly be aided by these plans. They don’t project to be a good team, and Fangraphs currently gives them just a 3.3% chance of making the postseason under the traditional format. But crazy things can happen in a 60-game sample, and that’s doubly true when eight playoff spots are up for grabs instead of five.
You’re allowed to hate this, if you want, because it’s pretty wild. You’re also allowed to love it, because it would mean more baseball games, and more reason for Giants fans to be optimistic.
Either way, the clock is ticking. The league and Players Association can’t make changes once the season begins, so this needs to be agreed on before the first pitch on Thursday.