Since 2012, Major League Baseball has stuck to the current playoff format. Three division winners automatically making the ALDS or NLDS, while the best two Wild Card teams duke it out in a one-game playoff to join the final four in each league.
The 2020 season was the only exception to this, as the shortened season allowed MLB and the Players Association to experiment, ultimately deciding on a 16-team playoff for just one year. Obviously, that likely won’t happen again, as having over 50% of the league make the playoffs leads to some undeserving teams in the tournament.
But it does appear that both the league and the Players Association are willing to make some form of tweak to the playoff format, even if the two sides have yet to agree on what that format might look like, according to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press:
Both sides have proposed expanding the playoffs, owners from 10 teams to 14 and players to 12, which would incentivize more competition.
Of course, even when the two sides agree that something needs to be changed, there is still a fundamental disagreement over what that change should look like. This is fairly emblematic of the way lockout negotiations have gone from the start.
But either a 12 or 14-team postseason bracket would add some intrigue. Let’s dive in to what that might look like.
With 12 teams making the postseason, six in each league, it would open up an entire Wild Card round versus just an individual game. In this format, the most likely bracket would give the top two teams in each league a bye to the ALDS or NLDS.
The other four would face off, with the No. 3 against the No. 6 seed, and No. 4 taking on No. 5. The winners would then move on to the DS and the playoffs would continue as we know them now. This is a very simple playoff format, and is identical to what the NFL Playoffs looked like until 2020.
Speaking of the NFL, a 14-team playoff would likely look the same as what they have now. One AL and NL team would receive a bye to the DS, while No. 2 faces No. 7, No. 3 goes against No. 6, and No. 4 plays No. 5 in a Wild Card round.
The winners would move forward and the playoff would continue as we know them now. Either format would keep things relatively simple while allowing more teams to have a chance at the World Series. It also avoids the 16-team problem of devaluing a playoff spot.