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Expanded playoffs are stupid, but helpful

The Giants have a much better chance of making the playoffs now.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I have a very dirty confession to make.

It’s not one I cherish making, especially in such a public setting. If you would like to reach out to my bosses demanding my firing upon hearing such a confession, I’m happy to provide you with their emails. Hell, even their phone numbers if you prefer. I totally get it.

All right, enough beating around the bush. Let’s get to the confession.

I like that MLB is expanding the playoffs for 2020.

Not because I think that’s how the postseason should be, because I emphatically don’t. Not because I think this propels the San Francisco Giants straight to the World Series, because lol you watched last night, didn’t you? Not because I want more baseball, even though I very much do.

I like it because it puts more money in the pockets of the players, who got metaphorically (and perhaps literally) kicked in the crotch by owners over the last few months.

The players agreed to the postseason expansion because it puts an extra $50 million in their pockets, and that’s good news. That’s a small win. There haven’t been many wins in 2020, and, strictly from a baseball standpoint, there don’t figure to be many more if you’re a Giants fan. We’ll take them where we can get them.

In case you missed the memo, MLB and the Players Association agreed to expanded playoffs right before Opening Day got underway. Here’s a quick hit of what that entails:

  • Expansion from 10 postseason teams to 16.
  • That’s eight postseason teams from each league.
  • That’s eight out of 15.
  • That’s more than half of teams that will make the playoffs.
  • Division winners will earn the top three seeds in each league.
  • Second-place finishes will earn the next three seeds in each league.
  • The two best records from the remaining crop of bad teams will earn the final two seeds in each league.
  • There are no byes.
  • There are no single-elimination games.
  • The first round is a best-of-three series, with all three games at the higher seed’s stadium.
  • Things proceed as normal after that, with a best-of-five LDS, a best-of-seven LCS, and a World Series.

OK, I think that covers it all.

Let’s state something that’s very obvious: This dramatically improves the Giants chances of making the postseason (Fangraphs now gives them a 10.6% chance of playing more than 60 games). It also decreases the Los Angeles Dodgers chances of winning the World Series (though the Dodgers, like all 30 teams, voted in favor of the proposal).

A massively-shortened season with a massively-expanded postseason is a dream come true for anyone hell bent on watching the Giants actually have a chance in 2020.

It’s also ludicrously stupid, but that’s a separate matter entirely. Everything is weird right now, so let’s all just insert some shrug emojis and keep moving through the day/week/month/year/decade.

For what it’s worth, the Giants would not have made the postseason last year under this format, nor would they have been close (though there are plenty of 60-game stretches during 2019 where they would have made the playoffs).

Here’s what the NL and AL standings would have looked like last year:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros
  2. Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees
  3. St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins
  4. Washington Nationals and Oakland A’s
  5. Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays
  6. Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland
  7. New York Mets and Boston Red Sox
  8. Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers

If it’s any consolation, that would have only resulted in one losing team in the postseason, and that losing team would have Hunter Pence.

The Giants also wouldn’t have made the postseason under this format in 2018 or 2017. They made the playoffs in 2016, so you have to go back to 2015 to see this format actually benefit them.

But maybe it does in 2020.

Either way, it’s more baseball for fans, more money for players, and more chances for the Giants. Those are wins, even if they’re wrapped in 10 square feet of stupidity.