I’m not just writing negatively about the MLB Postseason format because this is an Atlanta Braves site. When they introduced the new format the purist in me hated it then. Now that the Braves have lost two years in a row to a team that finished well below them in the standings, I hate it more. Let’s embrace the hate.
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When Did MLB Change to Current Postseason Format?
Major League Baseball adopted the new postseason structure prior to the 2022 season. The league was coming off of a frantic scramble to the World Series which included 16 teams in the tournament. It was exciting, but we all understood it was due to the fact that we only had a 60-game season. This wasn’t normal. Baseball is a game of numbers. It adheres to the law of large numbers. You need large sample sizes in baseball. Baseball is a marathon. In 2020, it was a sprint. We had mayhem. It was.
MLB Postseason has Devalued the Six-Month Season with Current Format
My heart sank in 2022 when they announced even more teams would make the postseason. Why even have a six-month season if it really doesn’t mean that much? It’s starting to look like the NBA.
We aren’t really crowning a champion of the season if a team that finished third place in their own division “wins” the National League like the Phillies did in 2022. The fact that the 87-win, third-place Phillies are the National League Champions of 2022 shows how little the regular season actually means now.
That year was incredible. The Braves made an amazing run to overtake the Mets for first-place in the NL East. They secured their fifth-straight division title on the second-to-last day of the season. Two 101-win teams sat at the top of the mighty NL East and the Braves were crowned champions.
All that excitement and the third-place team with 87 wins in the very same division walked away with the National League crown and represents our league in the World Series? Again, why even have a six-month season?
Current MLB Postseason is Like Watching Wrestlemania IX
So, why play 162 games if we aren’t trying to get a real champion that represents the best teams from that season? This is like when Bret Hart fought Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX. Bret Hart was the WWF chamption and Yokozuna won the 30-man Royal Rumble to become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. Guess who won the title? Hulk Hogan. That sounds dumb doesn’t it?
You might be thinking, “but wrestling is scripted and isn’t even real.” Correct. Even in a fictional setting like pro-wrestling, this concept is stupid. Welcome to the modern MLB.
Am I Just a Braves Fan With Sour Grapes?
What Was the Postseason Like When They Played the First World Series?
The team with the best record in the National League and the team with the best record in the American League faced off in the World’s Series. Back then, the National League (senior circuit) and the American League were actually separate leagues. The champions were crowned based on who had the best record at the end of the season. The best team during the season was the champion of the season. That makes way too much sense, doesn’t it?
Back then it wasn’t about all the TV dollars associated with keeping local markets for mediocre teams involved late in the season and into the postseason. There is too much money involved to ever go back.
New MLB Postseason Format Makes Sense from a Business Standpoint
Allow me to come down from my soapbox for a minute. If it were up to me, I’d do it too.
If you make me take off my fan shoes and put on my commissioner shoes, I’d do that deal all day.
A part of the reason Philadelphia is on fire right now is due to the postseason run they made in 2022. Under normal circumstances, that season would have been deemed a failure. Third-place in the division and watching your rivals from home? Failure. Instead, they won the National League and made it all the way to the World Series. The fan base is on fire thanks to the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, Braves and Mets fans still feel like they had a great season and were engaged late in the year. In 2024, the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies fanbases should all be jacked up about what their teams accomplished in 2023, thanks to the expanded postseason.
The final weekend of the 2022 regular season had the highest attendance numbers in eight years. TV ratings were up significantly during the Wild Card round and included more games thanks to the new format. ESPN reportedly paid up to $100 million for the rights to broadcast the new round of games last season.
Thanks to the success of the format (from a business standpoint) expect to see an expanded expanded format on the table at the next collective bargaining session.
“I can’t think of a negative,” said Craig Sloan, chief operating officer at Playfly Sports, whose sales division, Home Team Sports, represents every regional sports network within the U.S, “other than maybe a baseball purist who wants to go back to the old pennant-race-only era.”
Perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune if the Braves make a run through the postseason after finishing with 85 wins and finishing third in the division.
Will you look back and honestly be able to say that we were the champions of the season? No, not really.
But they will be the champions of expanded revenue! Thanks to all this extra money, we will see a billion-dollar player in the future. It’s coming.
What Can Baseball Purists Do About New MLB Postseason Format?
Enjoy the six-straight division titles. Don’t listen to people. Division titles matter. Putting together a season worthy of such a title is an accomplishment. Being the best team over 162-games may not be important as to who is crowned the champion in the World Series, but it should be celebrated.
There are new realities you have to accept. Here’s a list of words that will help you understand and enjoy the new format in this brave new world.
- The 162-game season pays homage to the past and generates very lucrative local television contracts.
- Doing well in the regular season is a completely separate issue from winning the tournament.
- The postseason is only going to expand. You have to learn to separate yourself from the notion that the postseason is designed to crown a champion for the season. Enjoy it for what it is. It’s an electric sprint through a tournament.
- Enjoy those division titles. That’s the real prize for a good regular season.
- Laugh at the fact that even with 12 teams getting into the MLB Postseason, New York City had no representation.
- Accept the fact that these changes aren’t for you. “Baseball purists” are going to keep watching baseball.
Baseball has always been a marathon, but everyone goes into a dead sprint when there are gobs of money at the finish line.