If you have the feeling this season is largely improvised, here’s another example: the 2020 MLB playoffs will be expanded to 16 teams, making it highly likely a sub-.500 team will be invited to the big dance.
What’s new: the addition of eight best-of-three Wild Card Series (all hosted by the team with the better record, to cut down on travel) preceding the best-of-five Division Series, to be televised on ESPN and TBS. The format: eight of the 15 teams in each league will be in the playoffs, ass first- and second-place teams in the six divisions qualify as well as the next two teams with the best records. There will be no play-in for the playoffs, as tiebreakers will determine the participants.
Players will split a $50 million bonus, with or without fans in the stands, though the bonus pool could grow beyond $50 million should gate revenues be realized.
“The opportunity to add playoff games in this already-abbreviated season makes sense for fans, the league and players,” said Tony Clark, MLBPA Executive Director, in a press statement. “We hope it will result in highly competitive pennant races as well as exciting additional playoff games to the benefit of the industry and all involved heading into next year.”
“We are excited to announce the expansion of the 2020 Postseason,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball. We look forward to a memorable Postseason concluding a year like no other and appreciate the continued partnership and enthusiasm of ESPN and TBS.”
A playoff expansion had been part of the negotiations over the 2020 season, with players pushing for more games as a way to generate revenue.
This would not be the first time a sub-.500 team has made the MLB playoffs. In 1981 the Kansas City Royals posted a 50-53 overall record in a season interrupted by a players strike, but made the playoffs because of a 30-23 second half record, best in the American League West. The Royals ended up being swept by the Oakland Athletics in the Divisional Series.