If MLB is seriously considering expanding its playoff format to include more teams in the hunt for Wild Card spots, count Nationals closer Sean Doolittle among those opposing the change.
The New York Post reported Monday that MLB is tossing around the idea of expanding the number of playoff teams from 10 to 14 with the addition of two Wild Card teams in each league. The No. 1 seeds would each get a bye while the other division winners and top Wild Card teams would be allowed to pick their opponents for individual three-game series.
Doolittle believes opening up the playoffs to more teams would damage the high-quality product on the field that the postseason is designed to provide.
The left-hander goes on to say in a thread, “Under this proposal, a 75 win team might be a playoff contender. Will teams continue to try to improve when they have to do less to make the playoffs? We need to be thinking about ways to drive competition and incentivize winning so fans get the best version of the game.”
There’s no confirmation that this proposal has advanced anywhere past the preliminary idea stage, but an expanded playoff has been a widely discussed topic for years even after the institution of the Wild Card Game in 2012.
As Doolittle points out, adding more teams to the mix may discourage teams from making moves to improve their club. However, teams have also proven hesitant to add pieces at the trade deadline when their division is out of reach for fear of sacrificing significant pieces for the future only to be eliminated one game into the playoffs.
Among the players to speak out against the proposal is Cincinnati Reds starter Trevor Bauer, who called commissioner Rob Manfred “a joke” on Twitter.
In an interview with Momentum, Bauer said, “Being on a routine is so important in baseball. We play for six months and now you’re going to say at the most critical time of the year, [No. 1 seeds] are going to get six days in between games? And who knows how the pitching rotation lines up and all this different stuff. And that’s supposed to be a benefit?”
As for Doolittle, he wants the MLB office to focus on a few other issues before considering a change in playoff format.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season, making the issue one that’s more likely to come up in talks for the next CBA rather than something that’d be instituted before that. Regardless of the timeline, Doolittle has already entrenched himself as an opponent of playoff expansion in this proposed form.
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