ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — After watching Atlanta, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers lose in the Division Series following 100-win seasons, Major League Baseball will examine its postseason format but isn’t rushing to make changes.
MLB expanded the playoffs from 10 teams to 12 for the 2022 season as part of a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association. Arizona and Texas advanced to the third all-wild card World Series, and the Diamondbacks with 84 wins could have the second-fewest for a champion over a non-shortened season.
Three of the four division winners with first-round byes lost after five-day layoffs, and the Orioles and Dodgers were swept.
“It will at least motivate a conversation about whether we have it right,” Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday before the World Series opener. “I’m sure that conversation will take place (after) the postseason. Enough has been written and said that we have to think about it and talk about it. But again, my own view is that the format served us pretty well.”
MLB proposed expanding the playoffs to 14 teams, but the union refused to go along. In the larger format, the 83-win Chicago Cubs would have been a wild-card team.
“We came into that negotiation believing that the system wasn’t broke. We liked the 10 teams,” union head Tony Clark said, speaking about an hour before Manfred.
The union also discussed during bargaining the “ghost win” system used in South Korea that would have given division winners a 1-0 lead in a playoff series before a pitch was thrown. Some have talked about expanding the Division Series to best-of-seven, but MLB is reluctant to extend the postseason deeper into November because of colder weather.
“We’ve made proposals in the past for shorter seasons,” Clark said. “They weren’t necessarily against the backdrop of expanded playoffs, but shorter seasons nonetheless, whether that was 162 games, 158 games, 154 games.”
After playoffs first were added, 15 teams with their league’s top record won the World Series from 1969-93, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. After a second round of playoffs was introduced, just six clubs with their league’s top mark took the title from 1995-2011 and six have won it all since wild-card games started in 2012.
“If the die was cast, right, meaning that if I win 100 in the regular season, I’m going to win the World Series. I don’t think that’s as interesting as what we have witnessed over the last month,” Manfred said.
Manfred said the Rangers and Diamondbacks reaching the playoffs two years after 100-loss seasons was a positive.
“It’s a really good thing for the sport when it’s demonstrated that you can rebuild on a fairly rapid timeline,” he said. “Long rebuilds are difficult.”
Manfred intends for the investigation of the New York Mets for improper use of the injured list, which led to the resignation of general manager Billy Eppler, will be concluded by the end of the year. The probe was sparked by an anonymous tip.
“Then we need to figure out whether we have a bigger problem,” Manfred said. “Right now we’re focused on the Mets just because we have the complaint. We got to deal with it. ”
PITCHER LIMITS AND INJURIES
Having established a maximum of 13 pitchers per team in 2022 during most of the season, Manfred said MLB would consider dropping the limit to 12 but not before 2025. MLB wants to encourage a return to greater emphasis on starting pitchers.
“There’s a lot of fans who feel like the change from let’s see who today’s pitching matchup is to who’s the opener today has not been a positive,” he said.
Clark said the union is concerned about pitcher injuries.
“In a world where you’re asking players to grip it and rip it and max effort, at some point in time you’re going to find that Ferrari in the red and that engine is going to blow,” the former All-Star first baseman said. “That’s what we’re teaching these guys and suggesting to players is most valuable.”
While the Automated Ball-Strike system won’t be used at the major league level next year, Manfred said there have been improvements in tailoring the computer to individual batting stances in minor league testing.
Still, there is no consensus on the shape of the strike zone — umpires call an oval strike zone in the major leagues that has little resemblance to the cubed strike zone in the rule book.
“We have to come to an understanding about what it is we’re going to call,” he said.
MLB had made little progress in developing a less slick baseball.
“Our progress on the baseball has been kind of a C-minus in general,” Manfred said. “It’s a very difficult project because you’re trying to find that sweet spot between better grip for the pitcher without dramatically increased — or significantly increased spin rate. And we thought we had a pretty good model last year. It got gummy when it got hot. We went back to the drawing board on it. We actually had a pretty good conversation with the Japanese professionals about what they’ve done with their baseball.”
Manfred said a new ball would be pearl white, supported by batters who would see it better but opposed by pitchers.
REGIONAL SPORTS NETWORKS
MLB took over broadcasts of Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks games during this past season. The sport filed a motion in bankruptcy court in an attempt to find out which teams if any Diamond Sports intends to broadcast on its Bally Sports networks next season.
“We need to know who they want to continue to broadcast and who they don’t want to continue to broadcast so that we can make plans in order to deliver games to our fans,” Manfred said.
MLB guaranteed the Marlins and Diamondbacks 80% of their contracted rights fees for 2023.
“We will be in a position that we can handle up to 16 teams next year,” Manfred said.
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