Only 23 teams in the history of Major League Baseball have won at least 106 regular-season games, and on Thursday night, one headed home when the 107-win San Francisco Giants lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-1. There are still four teams standing after one of the greatest teams in the history of the regular season goes home. Heck, the 106-win Dodgers already had to win a do-or-die wild card game to even get to the point to topple the Giants.
Never have we seen two teams with this many wins square off in any round of the playoffs, let alone the World Series. As a result, for weeks fans have been questioning the MLB playoff format and how silly this is. My answer remains the same: If you want to change the playoff format, fine, but don't do so because of something that has never happened before and will never, ever happen again.
More specifically, we shouldn't be kicking and screaming about the playoff format due to the Giants being sent packing early. This is an anomaly and rules shouldn't be changed after an anomaly happens.
That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to discuss tweaks to the format, however. It seems pretty simple that the teams with the two best records in the league shouldn't be playing each other before the championship series, right? Similar things have happened before under this format. Here are three recent examples:
- In the 2018 ALDS, the 108-win Red Sox had to beat the 100-win Yankees while the 91-win Indians were sent to the Astros.
- In 2017, believe it or not, the wild-card winning Diamondbacks had a better record than the Central-winning Cubs.
- In 2015, the NL Central housed the three best records in all of baseball. After the 97-win Cubs took down the 98-win Pirates in the Wild Card Game, they then faced the 100-win Cardinals in the NLDS. The other NLDS featured the 92-win Dodgers against the 90-win Mets.
The easy solution here is to simply re-seed after the wild-card game. This season, had the Cardinals beaten the Dodgers, they would have gone on to San Francisco to face the Giants while the Brewers-Braves matchup still happened. But with the Dodgers win, the easy tweak would have balanced the scales a tad.
As fair as that looks, I do not, however, think this tweak is going to happen. Instead, expect the playoffs to expand.
The collective bargaining agreement is up this coming offseason and we know commissioner Rob Manfred along with the owners have been pushing for a new format. Surely, this is one thing both the owners and players can easily agree upon. More playoff teams to the players means more chances to play in the playoffs. To the owners, it's more chances to have home playoff games and the windfalls the gates of said playoff games provide them.
The format that was floating pre-pandemic is the likeliest path. There will be seven teams in each league with the one seed getting a bye to the divisional round. The wild-card round would consists of three-game series -- all at the home of the better seed -- between 2 vs. 7; 3 vs. 6; 4 vs. 5.
After the wild-card round, they'll re-seed or go through with the idea that the one seed gets to choose its opponent.
Either way, we're never again going to see something like we're saw Thursday night. This was absolutely the last time we'll ever see such successful regular-season teams playing an elimination game before the league championship series.