In the midst of the ongoing disastrous Astros cheating scandal, Major League Baseball leaked a series of possible changes to its postseason structure that would come into effect by the start of the 2022 season. While it was certainly going to eventually surface, one would have to think that it was a bit of a PR move to at least momentarily distract from the insanely pathetic showing the Astros have put on at the opening of Spring Training.
The new rules are certainly a talking point, so we gathered some of our Ranger writers to share their thoughts on the possible changes.
Which proposed change is the easiest one for you to get behind?
Alex: Out of the possible changes, the one that makes the most sense is letting the top seed teams choose their opponents. It gives the top seeds something more to play for down the stretch. For example, the third Wild Card team may be on a dominant hot streak to sneak into the third wild card position while maybe the second wild card team scuffled to end the year. In regular seeding, the third division winner may see a better chance to take out the second wild card than the third. Therefore, the third division winner chooses the struggling second wild card rather than a hot third wild card. It adds some strategy for top seeding teams. Do I like it, not really, but out of all the possible changes, this one adds some level-headiness that I think benefits throughout the season.
Garrett: I think I could warm up to the idea of a 7-team postseason field. Baseball is very cyclical, so over the course of a decade we see most every team sneak in (sorry, Seattle), but if Major League Baseball expands the field to include about half of its total teams (which, by the way, is very similar to its professional counterparts in the NFL, NBA and NHL, who also feature about half), you would see so much more parity. Closer to home, I firmly believe that the Texas Rangers are the seventh-best team in the American League in 2020, so that would likely mean postseason baseball much sooner for fans chomping at the bit for it.
What is the hardest change to get behind?
Alex: Seven teams per league in the postseason is WAY too many. If you go back to the past within the last five years, you’d have three teams with records under .500 make the playoffs. In 2016, the Miami Marlins would sneak in with a 79-82 record, and in 2017 both the Angels and Rays sneak in with 80-82 records. In fact, there would be a few tiebreaker games required to crown two spots since the Royals finished the 2017 season 80-82. Got a headache? So do I. The one plus with Major League Baseball’s format, opposed to NBA and NHL, is that mediocrity never gets rewarded. Teams under .500 do not make the playoffs because only six spots are available, and if it does occur, it falls under a lousy division championship.
Garrett: I cannot get behind the idea that the higher-seeded teams would be able to “pick” which teams they play in the first round. You’re telling me the results entire 162-game gauntlet you just put every team through (by far the longest season of any professional sport) don’t matter at all? The current seeding is there for a reason- it works, and it can adjust to a seven-team field. Plus, imagine the proverbial “chips on shoulders” that the lower-seeded teams would have. Upsets galore.
These changes are far from official, but it is time to wrap the mind around their very real possibility of becoming reality. Changes to league rules are always hard for fans to accept, but they are inescapable. Each professional sports league is a business at the end of the day, and they need to explore ways to excite fans in the ever-changing world we live in today.
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