How MLB could keep the chaos while improving the playoffs


Baseball's owners are meeting this week in Arlington, Texas, home of MLB's newest champion, the Rangers, whose celebratory parade rolled through the wide boulevards of the area less than two weeks ago.

One item up for discussion, as per commissioner Rob Manfred, is the sport's new playoff format, the one that crowned the Rangers this year and the Astros in 2022, MLB's first postseason under a 12-team structure.

We probably shouldn't expect anything to change in the short term, given the tenor of Manfred's recent comments. "It's only Year 2," Manfred said during the National League Championship Series, largely responding to concerns that the top seeds were flopping in the division series after an extended layoff created by the new best-of-three wild-card round.

Two years does not tell us if the bye is actually a problem. So far, it's just a thing that has happened, and not uniformly. The Astros have dealt with the layoff just fine in both seasons, for instance. Historical research looking at similar layoffs through playoff history suggest they are a boon, not a penalty. There is not a manager in baseball who would forgo a first-round bye if given the option to do so, which tells you all you need to know.

That doesn't mean baseball's postseason format has been perfected -- though the definition of perfection varies. For some, it's about crowning the most worthy champion. For others, it's about maximum chaos. The hope is that the ultimate motivation among the owners is finding a happy medium.