Those who found Major League Baseball's last hoped-for playoff expansion unnecessarily confusing will have an easier time with the league's latest proposal.
The newest proposal from the owners to the players amid the ongoing negotiations over a shortened 2020 campaign contains a pitch for an expanded postseason that includes 16 teams, eight from each league. In this setup, the No. 1 seed would take on the No. 8 seed, the No. 2 seed would take on the No. 7 seed and so on, exactly like the NBA and NHL playoffs.
As part of this proposal, MLB asked for 16 teams to make playoffs (8 in each league). The plan calls for 1 to play 8, 2 to play 7, etc. In best-of-3 first round. Right now 5 teams make it in each league. Initial proposal asked for 7.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) June 8, 2020
A few key details are missing, such as whether teams will be seeded based on divisional alignment or just by record.
While it's the largest proposed playoff field to date in a sport that only added the divisional round in 1995, the format is far more streamlined than the previous suggestion. That involved a first-round bye for the team with each league's best record and the addition of a wild card round in which teams with better records draft their opponents and games would be played at only the higher-seeded teams' ballparks.
Here's the question, though: Will we see anything but the already existing format this year?
That depends on the outcome of the negotiations between the league and the players' union. The players, steadfast in their stance that they should receive nothing less than the prorated salaries they agreed to in March, are understandably unhappy with the owners' proposals for additional pay cuts.
The players included an expanded postseason format, the 14-team one the league has reportedly been mulling for months, in their latest proposal, which the owners rejected last week. The league's latest proposal contains this new 16-team format, but the economic parts of the proposal already have the players reportedly referring to it as a "step backwards."
It looks increasingly likely that the league could sidestep further negotiations and impose a short schedule in which the players get full prorated salaries over a small number of regular-season games, perhaps as few as 48. National reporters have suggested that such a move would be unlikely to be accompanied by any new negotiations over a change in the playoff format, so if there is going to be an expanded postseason this year, it would most likely be the result of an agreement between the two parties.
The league has been adamant about finishing the season around the normal time, with the World Series wrapping up in late October or early November, as to avoid a feared second wave of COVID-19 infections during the ongoing pandemic. Yet, it's simultaneously proposing a lengthier postseason with an entire extra round tacked on at the beginning. The league's national TV contracts when it comes to broadcasting the playoffs are its most lucrative. More playoff games means more money in a season that's expected to see a steep decline in revenues.
Even without a new format this season, it's something that could come to baseball when the new collective-bargaining agreement is hashed out following the 2021 campaign.
MLB proposes expanding baseball postseason to 16 teams, like NBA, NHL playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago