MLB hits home run with playoff format

Jared Galanti, Columnist

The MLB’s current playoff format that they created due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a great one. In the past, MLB has changed up its playoff format to give more teams an opportunity to get into the postseason. I love what they have done for this season, and I hope they keep it. 

Back in 1995, the MLB expanded their playoffs from six teams to eight teams with the introduction to the “Wild Card” team. This team didn’t have to win their respective division, but had to have a better record than every other team in their league to make it to the postseason. That team would go on to the Division series to play against the highest seed of the division winners and earn their way to the championship series.

They again expanded the playoffs back in 2012, which I personally liked when they added a second Wild Card team. This meant the two Wild card teams would have to face each other in a single elimination playoff game to be able to move on to the division series against the number one seed in their respective league. I thought this was a good idea because it would allow more teams to compete for a spot in the playoffs.

According to, this year’s playoffs look completely different than in years past. This year there will be 16 teams, eight from each league, battling for the World Series crown. 

This year they have added the first and second place teams of each division, along with the two Wild Card teams into a NCAA-style bracket. Instead of the one-and-done Wild Card games, all 16 teams will be put into eight best two out of three Wild Card series before going on to the divisional round which will go back to its original best three out of five style. 

I love the way this format is set up. In my eyes, it gives teams, who in years past would have no shot at making the playoffs, the chance to get their players experience in playing meaningful games in September.

Take the Seattle Mariners, for example. This season they were 27-33 in the new 60 game schedule that the MLB implemented this year. In years past, the Mariners would’ve been eliminated from playoff contention early and would not be playing meaningful games in September. 

This year, however, the Mariners, who have a really young team, got their players the experience of playing meaningful games down the stretch because they were still in contention for a playoff spot all the way to the last series of the season. This experience will help the Mariners for the next couple years because the guys who are going to be part of their core will know what it means to play meaningful baseball in September once they are 100% committed to contend for a playoff spot.

The other benefit to keeping the playoff format the way it is is that many more teams will be competing for spots in the playoffs, which in turn could lead to more viewership of the games being played. 

According to The Los Angeles Times, viewership from baseball games being telecast on ESPN was up 29% from last year due to, among other things, the fact that this year 16 teams can make the playoffs. This brings hope to fans of teams who may not be classified as a powerhouse, but a team that is good enough to maybe sneak into the playoffs. And once you are in the playoffs, anything can happen.

I was very excited for the potential that the Mariners could make a playoff spot, something they haven’t done in the past 19 seasons. The new format in which the top two teams from the division make the playoffs made me want to watch every game in September because they had a chance to make the playoffs. It got me excited for games that I would usually not watch in years past because they had no shot at making the playoffs because of the old format. 

With all this mind, there is no reason to go back to the old playoff format. Teams will not get the experience of playing meaningful games down the stretch, which in turn will lead to viewership of the sport going in the wrong direction. That is something that the MLB wants to avoid happening.