MLB Needs to Get Real About Its Playoff Predicament

Kyle Koster
St. Louis Cardinals v Minnesota Twins
St. Louis Cardinals v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images
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The Major League Baseball season, which always seems to be one outbreak away from careening off a cliff like a car full of O'Doyles, has struggled to get teams onto the field thus far. Look at the standings in a few divisions and you see some wild stuff. The Miami Marlins have played 10 games to the Atlanta Braves' 17. The Pirates have managed to complete 16 while the St. Louis Cardinals, still waiting to get the green light to return to action, have played all of five.

Five games! Compared to 13 postponements — a number that could grow. One need not be a math major or Jonah Hill from Moneyball to understand that those figures are bad. At least if the goal is to get every MLB team to the 60-game mark, which currently is the stated mark even as logistics continue to suggest it simply won't be possible to do that.

Rob Manfred's only public comments regarding what would happen in such an event conveyed winning percentage would be weighed. This is an obvious solution, of course, but one that's fraught with some pretty significant issues considering the event horizon.

Let's take the Cardinals. Though the plan is to pump them full of seven-inning makeup doubleheaders, it's not really feasible that they'll be able to clean up everything. A later outbreak would make it impossible. That's not even addressing the issue of forcing a team to play 55 games in 46 days or whatever unholy pace is required. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Cardinals can play 40 games and win 23 of them.

This would be enough to make the field, if not win the division. But it'd be in two-thirds of the games played. A slap in the face of the idea of competitive fairness. And yet something that could happen, not just to the Cardinals but to the Yankees — perhaps — should they have problems down the stretch.

With that in mind, it's imperative that the powers-that-be act quickly to establish a baseline. A number of completed games a team would need to compete in order to qualify for the playoffs. It shouldn't be lower than 50. Or even 52. Fifty-six would be ideal yet still a chore without further hiccups.

Naturally, there could be some common sense applied in deciding which makeup games are prioritized as well. St. Louis and Miami have been the offending sides so far, so they should get last priority. And it may be best not to dock teams who had to sit out waiting to play because of those two sides.

The point is, there needs to be a stated contingency plan so there are no September surprises. Won't hold my breath, though, since this is baseball in 2020.

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