Only 23 teams in Major League Baseball history have won at least 106 regular season games, and on Thursday night, one came home when the San Francisco Giants in 107 wins lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-1. There are still four teams left after the return of one of the greatest teams in regular season history. Heck, the 106-winning Dodgers already had to win a make-or-die wildcard game to even get to the point of toppling the Giants.
Never have we seen two teams with so many wins go head to head in any round of the playoffs, let alone the World Series. As a result, for weeks fans questioned the MLB playoff format and how stupid it is. My answer remains the same: if you want to change the playoff format, fine, but don’t do it because of something that has never happened before and will never happen again.
Specifically, we shouldn’t be complaining about the playoff format due to the Giants being sent off early. This is an anomaly and the rules should not be changed after an anomaly has occurred.
This does not mean, however, that we are not authorized to discuss changes to the format. It seems pretty straightforward that the teams with the top two league records shouldn’t go head-to-head before the Championship Series, right? Similar things have happened in this format before. Here are three recent examples:
- In the 2018 ALDS, the 108-win Red Sox had to beat the 100-win Yankees while the 91-win Indians were sent to the Astros.
- In 2017, believe it or not, the wildcard-winning Diamondbacks had a better record than the Central-winning Cubs.
- In 2015, NL Central was home to the three best records in all of baseball. After the 97-win Cubs beat the Pirates to 98 in the Wild Card Game, they went on to face the Cardinals at 100 in the NLDS. The other NLDS featured the Dodgers at 92 wins against the Mets at 90 wins.
The simple solution here is to just re-seed after playing with wild cards. This season, if the Cardinals had beaten the Dodgers, they would have gone to San Francisco to face the Giants while the Brewers-Braves game was still playing. But with the Dodgers winning, the easy setup would have balanced the scales a bit.
As fair as it sounds, I don’t think, however, that this tweak is going to happen. Instead, expect the playoffs to develop.
The collective agreement is underway this coming offseason and we know Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners have been pushing for a new format. This is definitely something that owners and players can easily agree on. More playoff teams for players means more chances to play in the playoffs. For the owners, it is more likely to have home playoff games and the bargains that the said playoff gates offer them.
The format that was floating before the pandemic is the most likely path. There will be seven teams in each league, with the top seed securing a pass to the division round. The wildcard round would consist of a three-game series – all at the home of the top seed – between 2v7; 3 against 6; 4 against 5.
After the turn of the wild cards, they will re-seed or go all the way with the idea that a seed chooses its opponent.
Either way, we’ll never see something like we saw again on Thursday night. It was absolutely the last time we will see such successful regular season teams play an elimination game before the league championship series.