With the beginning of the World Series on Tuesday Oct. 24, a major problem arises for fans of one of America’s favorite pastimes—the baseball season comes and goes by far too quickly.
After a grueling 162-game season, the Major League Baseball playoffs finish in under a month—with the champion playing a potential maximum of 20 games. That makes the postseason just 12 percent of the regular season. No other major sports are nearly as disproportionate.
The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League playoffs are 34 percent of the regular season. Even the National Football League, with the Super Bowl champions having to win only three or four games, has a postseason that’s 20-25 percent of the regular season. Some feel that there is no reason why the MLB’s championship season is so short.
In contrast, the NBA playoffs are very long, mostly due to the high number of rest days. There should be a sweet spot that doesn’t leave fans feeling like the best team might not have won it all. Sure, that is the wild beauty of tournaments like college basketball’s March Madness and NFL’s playoffs, but that isn’t characteristic for baseball.
The most obvious problem is in the wild card game. One team from the American and the National League play a single winner-takes-all game to decide which team advances to their respective League Division Series. The addition of a ninth and 10th playoff team is positive for the competitiveness of the regular season, but a single-game format is not how baseball is meant to be played. Baseball is a game sorted out through the strength of overall pitching staffs, as determined by large sample sizes. One game does not show which team is better.
A best of three series or an arrangement in which the lower-seeded wild card team has to win twice in a row—similar to the Korean format—would more accurately decide the better team. This latter potentially saves only one day off the postseason schedule, so a best of three would be optimal.
Furthermore, the LDS is still only a best-of-five series. This is an antiquated format based on travel concerns and an arbitrary desire not to have the postseason extend into November.
Such a format certainly helps underdogs—perhaps no example is more relevant than the New York Yankees. This is antithetical, however, to baseball’s inherent nature of the cream of the crop rising after several contests.
Without a doubt, the LDS should be a best-of-seven series, just like the ensuing League Championship Series and World Series.
This leads to the question of where to end the season. The NBA is now eight months from the first dribble of opening night to the last dribble of the final game—which would not work for the MLB.
While most fans would likely want a longer season, perhaps Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred should look to shorten the regular season to allow for a longer playoff season.
If the opening day of the regular MLB season remained around the beginning of April, with playoffs beginning in late September and lasting until approximately Halloween, it would leave more fans satisfied.
In the meantime, fans will be following the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series.