A new wrinkle has been added to the 2020 Major League Baseball season — at the last minute.
While the season-opening game was being played in Washington DC, MLB and the players union announced they have agreed to expand the postseason field from 10 teams to 16 teams for the 2020 season.
Here’s an excerpt from the joint statement:
Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) jointly announced today that the 2020 Postseason will expand to 16 teams, beginning with eight best-of-three Wild Card Series preceding the Division Series. All of the new Postseason games will be exclusively televised by ESPN and TBS. Major League Clubs unanimously approved the expansion of the Postseason via conference call this afternoon, and the Major League Players also have approved the new system.
MLB’s 60-game regular season will end on Sept. 27. The expanded postseason will begin Sept. 29, with the new first round running through Oct. 2.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced MLB to shut down in March, there were reports that the league was looking to expand the postseason. The possibility of an extended postseason in 2020 picked up steam as it became more apparent the league would be unable to play a full regular season. However, the players were initially hesitant to accept.
When MLB and the MLB players association finally agreed to have a season on June 23, the plan was to keep the postseason format the same. However, the sides have agreed to a last-minute amendment that further changes the landscape of an already unpredictable 2020 season.
“We are excited to announce the expansion of the 2020 Postseason,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in the statement. “This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball. We look forward to a memorable Postseason concluding a year like no other and appreciate the continued partnership and enthusiasm of ESPN and TBS.”
Tony Clark, the Executive Director of the MLBPA, said: “The opportunity to add playoff games in this already-abbreviated season makes sense for fans, the league and Players. We hope it will result in highly competitive pennant races as well as exciting additional playoff games to the benefit of the industry and all involved heading into next year.”
How the postseason will set up
Before we discuss the bracket set up, we should explain the composition of the regular season schedule. Because, well, it’s unique.
Teams will play a division and region-heavy schedule. For example, the New York Yankees will play 40 games against American League opponents, and 20 against teams from the National League East. In other words, the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, will not play each other until October, if they play at all.
That schedule could definitely provide some advantages and disadvantages for playoff contenders and ultimately alter the seeds.
With 16 teams headed to October, the second-place teams in each division will now make the postseason automatically, and the seventh and eighth teams in each league will be chosen from the best records remaining. In the expanded postseason, the wild-card round will feature best-of-3 series instead of one-game playoffs. The higher seeded team will host all three games, which will cut down on travel.
This will make the postseason substantially longer, with as many as 65 postseason games this year. The first round will be best-of-3, followed by best-of-5 and best-of-7 rounds in the LCS and World Series.
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