Yankees fans who devote 162 games worth of anxiety to the regular season likely have mixed feelings on potential expanded playoffs.
After all, getting a chance at the end of a long and winding road is all you really ask for — though, with a proliferation of teams involved, the achievement would be devalued a bit, and the road to a World Series would surely get several degrees harder with less margin for error and more hurdles.
If you’re split on how to evaluate these rumors, think of it from an ownership perspective — specifically, Yankees ownership.
What conclusion might Hal Steinbrenner, who’s already obsessed with the Magical Rays, draw about an MLB Playoffs format that crams more teams into the field, gives division winners next to no benefit, and evens the theoretical playing field by forcing seeds two-through-seven into a best-of-three series.
Sure, the top dog gets some time off, but there will be a lot of 87-win sneakers in that field who believe they can absolutely win two out of three games on the road, as radio host Craig Carton explained is the rumored format on Thursday. Wouldn’t that encourage Steinbrenner even more so to simply get the Yankees close, then hope they catch a few breaks?
Rumored new MLB Playoffs format could tighten Yankees’ budget further
Your World Series Champions: the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, 33% of the time probably!
Though increased parity seems good for the game, especially during a dark time like this, who among us has any faith in ownership gleaning the empowering message from a format shift like this rather than taking the lazy way out?
In theory, expanding the playoffs could make every team think, “We have a chance!” From the lowly Orioles to the middling Cubs, projected also-rans across the country could hop into the fray at the trade deadline as buyers, as long as they’re within four or five games of the third Wild Card.
In practice, though, analytics gurus are going to tell owners looking for an update that “home field advantage” doesn’t assure much of anything in a best-of-three that could be over in the blink of an eye. Owners, looking to maximize playoff gate revenue, might be swayed that being a favored team could earn them an extra two postseason game checks (at minimum), but Hal Steinbrenner typically has not put the pedal to the metal to assure that under the current format.
He’s looking to keep payroll low and duck under the luxury tax threshold by any means necessary. He’s looking to build a starpower base without spending on the necessary depth to back it up. And if he sees high-80 win teams making the playoffs, isn’t he likely to conclude, “Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and three other semi-stars should be enough to get us there, right?”
Beware a further descent into mediocrity if MLB opens the playoff door any further.