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Will the 2021 MLB season continue with expanded playoffs?

National League Championship Series Game 4: Atlanta Braves v. Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It was no secret that Rob Manfred and the greedy men that make up Major League Baseball’s owners sought to line their pockets further prior to the 2020 season ever beginning. Before the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the news, word leaked out about MLB attempting a new playoff format, one that would have fans vote for the match-ups they wanted see.

The 2020 MLB postseason shifted the minds of fans away from the league’s proposed playoff plans. In the place of those initial ideas, MLB seems to have hit on a new concept that they will continue into the coming seasons thanks to the pandemic that reduced the regular season campaign to 60 games. Fans are anticipating the MLB World Series and debating which team will win it. Fans can use the Unibet PA bonus code to wager on the World Series and its outcome.

MLB expanded playoffs are here to stay

As baseball statisticians and sabermetric aficionados claim, the numbers don’t lie, and that is true about fan reaction to the expanded playoffs. Sixteen teams—eight from each league—made the MLB playoffs in 2020 as the league’s head honchos didn’t believe the 60-game regular season sorted out matters well enough.

The first round of the playoffs, a wild-card, best of three game series, received great ratings numbers. Compared to the typical wild-card round, fans were guaranteed to see at least two games per series rather than the one-and-done sudden death feature used in previous years.

According to Nielsen, the games shown by ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC “reached 43.76 million viewers.” Each baseball game in the wild-card round had an average of 1.836 million viewers.

The networks that aired the games are said to be very happy with the numbers. If the networks are happy and the money is there, then you can rest assured MLB will continue with the format in the future.

The downside of an expanded playoffs

The MLB Players Union must agree to an expanded playoff format for them to continue. The pessimistic baseball fan will assume that this is a mere formality. However, it may take some convincing from the league to get the MLB Players Union to agree.

There are 30 teams in MLB and allowing over 50% of them to qualify for the postseason drives down competition. Two of the 16 teams that made the 2020 playoffs ended the regular season with records below .500. One of those teams, the Houston Astros, reached the American League Championship series. If competition is down to make the playoffs, owners do not have to pay top dollar to star players.

Fans watched the MLB playoffs with renewed interest, but it may not be down to their favorite team making the postseason. The MLB regular season is 162 games. It is a marathon in which many of the teams are out of the running to make the playoffs by midseason. Shortening the regular season by 30 games wouldn’t hurt. This would potentially increase competition and viewer interest. Of course, MLB can make more money by playing an expanded postseason and keeping the regular season at 162 games.

Baseball continues to lose fan interest and young people are playing the game in fewer numbers. Any way to draw attention will be welcomed. However, MLB is likely to use the idea of creating fan interest to overshadow the real reason for expansion: money.