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Rick Zamperin: Expanding baseball’s playoff format is a home run

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. points at first base umpire Ben May after being called out on strikes during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. points at first base umpire Ben May after being called out on strikes during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Of North America’s four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL), the one that has the toughest odds of making the playoffs is Major League Baseball.

But there’s reportedly a move afoot to change that.

Starting in 2022, MLB is considering expanding the number of playoff teams from the current 10 to 14, or nearly half of the league’s 30 teams, boosting the percentage of post-season spots from 33 to 47 per cent.

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Currently, 38 per cent of National Football League teams (12 of 32) make the playoffs, while 52 per cent of teams in the National Hockey League (16 of 31 — it will be 16 of 32 starting next season) do the same.

The National Basketball Association sees 53 per cent (16 of 30) of its teams compete in the post-season.

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Before 1969, unless there was a tie atop the National and American Leagues, only the best team in each league would meet in the playoffs — the World Series.

That was boosted to four teams in ’69, then doubled to eight in 1995, before reaching the current 10-team tournament in 2012.

Under this proposed new scenario, which would need to be approved by the MLB Players Association, the team with the best record in each league would earn a bye into the Division Series while the two other division winners would pick their first-round opponents among the wild-card teams on live television.

The proposal also calls for baseball to do away with its one-game wild-card playoff games and replace them with best-of-three series.

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Adding two more playoff spots in each league would obviously keep many more teams in the hunt for a post-season spot later on in the season and thus keep more fanbases intrigued longer.

I would recommend that if baseball wants to keep its 162-game season, it should start the season a little earlier in the year to avoid a late-November World Series.

Even so, baseball and the players’ union would be, well cracker jacks, if they didn’t employ this new playoff format.

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