MLB Playoff Idea: Wild Card Round Robin

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Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu (79) celebrates along with the rest of his team on a win over the Detroit Tigers Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Mark Black)

With all the uncertainty of the 2020 MLB season/playoffs, let’s dream a little.  Let’s take a page out of the NCAA’s book for the College World Series.  Rather than a Wild Card Game, let’s have a Wild Card Round Robin. Let’s let the higher seeded teams pick the venues. And let’s have a little chaos.

If the regular season started on June 1 and ended on October 31, that would give us 140 games in 153 days.  After 140 games, the three division winners are safe with a first-round bye like usual.  The next four best teams in each league are ranked by record 1-4.  Those four teams would compete in a double-elimination bracket at a site chosen by the team with the best record of the four.  The site has to be a “qualifying ballpark,” which is a park with either a roof or in a warm-weather climate.

“Qualifying Ballparks”: Tampa Bay, Miami, Milwaukee, Seattle, Houston, Texas, Arizona, Toronto, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland, Atlanta and spring training facilities.

Since there are 22 less regular season games, the playoff bracket helps teams on the outside looking into the playoff race.  Those teams have an uphill battle, but a chance.

Using the 2019 records, here is how the seeding would shake out using this format:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

  1. Houston Astros                  (West Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  2. New York Yankees           (East Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  3. Minnesota Twins              (Central Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  4. Oakland Athletics            (Chooses site of Wild Card Bracket)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays
  6. Cleveland Indians
  7. Boston Red Sox

NATIONAL LEAGUE

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers        (West Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  2. Atlanta Braves                    (East Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals              (Central Division Champ – 1st round bye)
  4. Washington Nationals      (Chooses site of Wild Card Bracket)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers
  6. New York Mets
  7. Arizona Diamondbacks

WILD CARD BRACKET (November 2nd – 6th)

Based on last year’s records, Oakland and Washington would be the top two wild card teams.  Oakland’s ballpark is in a warm-weather climate, so they could choose to host at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.  Oakland could choose what time the A’s would play, ideally the evening game.

Washington would have to choose a “qualifying ballpark” considering playing November baseball in D.C. isn’t ideal.  They could choose their spring training facility or a nearby qualifying ballpark, say Toronto, Tampa or Miami.

The higher seed always gets to bat last.  So Boston and Arizona would technically never get “home field advantage”.

DIVISIONAL ROUND (November 8th – 12th)

The divisional round consists of best-of-five series in five days.  However, “home field advantage” would alternate every game.  This is how playoff series would be if travel weren’t a factor. It’d be the fairest way to do it. Since travel isn’t a factor here, the lower seeded team would bat last in games 2 and 4 (if necessary).

Once again, the higher seeded teams get to pick where the series is located.  If there are any conflicts of two deciding teams wanting the same venue, the team with the better record gets to choose.

AL – 4 Playoff teams

(1) HOU vs Wild Card Winner    (HOU could choose home ballpark)

(2) NYY vs (3) MIN                            (NYY could choose TOR or spring training facility)

NL – 4 Playoff teams

(1) LAD vs Wild Card Winner    (LAD could choose home ballpark)

(2) ATL vs (3) STL                               (ATL could choose home ballpark)

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (November 14th – 20th)

This would be a seven-game series in seven days. MLB could make this a predetermined destination.  It’d be easier to sell and prepare.  This might make everything a little more fair too.

AL

(1) HOU vs (2) NYY   (Predetermined Ballpark)

NL

(3) STL vs (4) WSH    (Predetermined Ballpark)

WORLD SERIES (November 22nd – 28th)

Same rules as league championship series.  Seven-game series in seven days.  Predetermined ballpark.

WS

(1) HOU vs (4) WSH   (Predetermined Ballpark)

It’s a lot of baseball in a short amount of time. But even if a team plays the maximum amount of playoff games (24) added to a 140-game schedule, it totals 164 games.  That’s only two more than the traditional 162 and still short of what a World Series champion would total in a regular year.

Having a predetermined ballpark for the League Championship Series and World Series likely prevent a team from hosting every game for three consecutive series.  It also could generate revenue for medium/small market facilities.

This format is chaotic, but it’s modified to help teams’ World Series chances when dealing with a shortened season. It also finishes the season before December.

It’s a little desperate, but you know what they say about desperate times…

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