Some folks around baseball would like to keep this year’s expanded playoff format moving forward. Would that be a good thing for the Blue Jays?
I’ll admit, when baseball announced that they had expanded the playoff field for 2020’s shortened season, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I liked the idea for this year’s schedule considering all of the other variables at play, but I wondered if it might be something the league office would want to keep.
As it turns out, that’s pretty much exactly what’s happened.
According to interviews this week from commissioner Rob Manfred, he would like to see MLB keep a few of the rules that were used this season, including the expanded playoffs, and starting a runner on second base during extra innings. The rumours seem to favour a 14-team playoff rather than the 16 teams that qualified this year, which would mean the top team in each league would get a first-round bye while the other six teams sorted themselves out with a three-game series.
Without diving into the runner on second base in extra innings fiasco (I hate that rule), let’s examine what an expanded playoff could mean for the Blue Jays in a normal season.
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In 2020 it definitely played in their favour, as they secured the eighth and final playoff spot in the American League. That matched them up in a three-game series against the Rays, who are now in the World Series against the Dodgers after emerging from the AL with the pennant. This season the opportunity gave some important experience to the Blue Jays’ youngsters, but in the future it may not be so helpful.
Call me an optimist, but I think the Blue Jays are just at the beginning stages of being a top-tier team in their division. The competition is fierce with a list of division rivals that includes the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, and even occasionally the Orioles, and there’s rarely a time when it’s not one of, if not the toughest division in the big leagues. By that logic you would think that I’d like to see the post-season field expanded so the Blue Jays would have a better chance to qualify. There’s an argument to be made there for sure, but it brings more concern than excitement for me.
One of the reasons I don’t like the idea of an expanded playoff is because I like to see the best teams rewarded, especially after a gruelling 162-game schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cheering for an underdog as much as the next guy, but I also want to see the integrity of the competition maintained. Thankfully it’s worked out in that way in 2020, but can you imagine if the 29-31 Brewers had beaten the 43-17 Dodgers in the first round?
That’s the potential situation that I don’t like for baseball, and in particular for my beloved Blue Jays as we look ahead to the next five years or so. Hypothetically, the Blue Jays or any other team could have the second best record in the American League and be faced with a three-game series in order to advance to the Division series round. Even if things didn’t go sideways in 2020, there’s a lot of potential for underdogs to emerge, and I don’t know that I like that potential for the Jays.
Looking through the lens of strictly what’s best for the Blue Jays, I’m not in favour of keeping the expanded post-season. I don’t want to see an opportunity for the Yankees or the Red Sox to sneak in to the playoffs (yes, like the Blue Jays did this year) then win two out of three and advance. I say that because I sincerely believe that we’re headed for an era that the Jays will be among the top four teams in the AL, and hopefully it will be a sustained era of success in Toronto.
If I’m correct, then selfishly I’d rather see the cream rise to the top and not have a chance to get knocked off in a short first-round series. I guess we’ll see what the MLBPA has to say about keeping some of this year’s rules.