MLB

It now looks like an expanded MLB postseason may in fact happen in 2020, with that news coming right as the regular season starts. An expanded playoff format was discussed at several points throughout the contentious negotiations about if there would be a 2020 MLB season, but the eventual 60-game season was set to proceed under the current postseason format. Wednesday saw reports that MLB and the MLBPA were still discussing an expanded postseason, though, and Thursday saw those sides come to a deal for a 16-team playoff format, albeit one subject to ratification by the MLB owners (which it received later Thursday).

ESPN’s Marly Rivera was first to that news:

Joel Sherman of The New York Post later had the news of ratification by the owners:

As Evan Drellich of The Athletic noted, this happened after MLB doubled its initial postseason bonus pool offering:

As discussed earlier this week, the initial round will be best-of-three. But there are a few twists there. For one, those series are expected to be played entirely at the higher seeds’ stadiums, and for another, while six teams in each league will be automatically picked as first and second-place finishers in each division, the remaining four spots will go to the teams with the best remaining records.

Jayson Stark of The Athletic and Buster Olney of ESPN have more on that:

And as Sherman tweeted earlier in the day, before official ratification, this means there’s now a lot more MLB playoff TV inventory out there:

Indeed it is, and it could be interesting to see who winds up with it. The league does have three existing national television partners in Fox, Turner, and ESPN, and those companies would presumably be in the mix. But there are going to be a whole lot of sports on this fall (at least under leagues’ current plans), which could present some scheduling challenges. There are also possibly opportunities to give extra games to MLB Network, as putting playoff games there has been a big boost for that network in the past (even under free preview setups). Other bidders could also come into play here, including the long-rumored Amazon.

Of course, this expansion isn’t necessarily universally beloved. TV networks would love more MLB playoff games, the league would love the revenue from those games, and the players would love revenue from those. More playoff games probably make some sense this year, and they might help alleviate some of the weirdness that may come from a 60-game season. Playing the three-game series at the higher seeds’ ballparks does still reward finishing higher.

But while there’s a case for this in 2020, there are some concerned that any postseason expansion may wind up being permanent, and may wind up diminishing the value of the MLB regular season and even the early rounds of the playoffs. FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski had some good tweets on that Thursday; here are a few highlights.

Of course, this all still could change. It’s possible that MLB winds up calling its season early thanks to COVID-19; there have been plenty of positive tests in the league, including Washington Nationals’ star Juan Soto testing positive Thursday ahead of that team’s Opening Day game against the New York Yankees. But if MLB does make it through its planned season, there could be significantly more postseason games this year, which may or may not lead to more postseason games every year.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.