Batting Around: How many teams should qualify for baseball’s postseason?

The Atlanta Braves are World Series champions and now baseball is in the middle of its first work stoppage since the 1994-95 strike. MLB and the MLBPA were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the Dec. 1 deadline, so the owners locked out the players, and the hot stove has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Throughout the offseason, the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week, we predicted when the lockout will end. This week, we’re going to tackle the postseason format.

How many teams do you want in the postseason?

R.J. Anderson: I’d prefer to stick with the 10-team format. I think we’ve seen that additional playoff spots does not incentive teams to try; if anything, it’s had the inverse effect, with teams preferring to miss the postseason entirely rather than mortgage future value for a chance to play in the Wild Card Game. (My preferences aside, I assume we’ll end up with 14 teams.)

Matt Snyder: While I think we could pick nits with the one-and-done format after 162 games, I really like advancing the three division winners to the divisional round and playing a winner-take-all game between two wild card teams. I know it hasn’t been around for very long, but putting the onus on winning the division makes sense. I do think there’s also something to be said for adding playoff teams, which means more teams have a shot at the playoffs and, in turn, might help prevent so many teams from actively trying to improve their teams in order to make a playoff run. I also don’t yet think there’s an oversaturation point to adding more playoff games. Unless the league did something stupid like going to 16 teams permanently with longer series throughout, more playoff games adds to our viewing pleasure. 

I guess my verdict is if I had my choice, I’d stick with 10, but I won’t argue with 12 or maybe even 14. 

Dayn Perry: If I had my druthers, only division winners would make the postseason, with the top team in each league getting a bye to the LCS. That’s obviously not happening, so in lieu of that I’ll sign on to the 14-team format. I really like the team with the best record in each league getting a bye, and I also like the potential wrinkle of having the other division winners picking their first-round opponents. I don’t think this format does much to incentivize competition on the back end — race for 75 wins and so forth — but I consider it the best of the unsavory options moving forward. 

Mike Axisa: MLB proposed a 14-team format and the MLBPA proposed a 12-team format in their bargaining sessions prior to the lockout, so we’re getting at least 12 teams. I would like to stick with 10 teams. I don’t want to lessen the importance of the regular season and water down the postseason competition, and make it even more of a crapshoot. Sub-.500 teams would have make the postseason in previous years under the 14-team format (the 80-82 Rays and Angels in 2017, specifically), and I’m worried teams will build 85-win rosters and stop right there, because that’s good enough to get to the postseason. That will cut into free agent spending, arbitration, and all the other things that led to the current work stoppage. MLB has a great, exclusive postseason. Expanding it more risks watering it all down.


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