NEW YORK – Major League Baseball and the players’ union agreed Thursday to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 for the pandemic-delayed season, a decision that makes it likely teams with losing records will reach the postseason.
The agreement was reached hours before the season opener between the New York Yankees and World Series champion Washington Nationals. The deal applied only for 2020 and included a surprise benefiting the Yankees the most: Collection of baseball's luxury tax will be suspended this year, a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
Sixteen of the 30 teams will advance to a best-of-three first round: the first- and second-place teams in every division and the next two clubs by winning percentage in each league. Those winners move on to the best-of-five Division Series, where the usual format resumes. The final four teams are in best-of-seven League Championship Series, and the pennant winners meet in the best-of-seven World Series.
“It’s such a unique season, why not try a little something different and make it as exciting as possible,” said Colorado shortstop Trevor Story, whose team has never won a World Series title. “I know it’s going to be such a sprint with the 60-game season; adding more playoff teams will just add to the fire and the excitement and the fandom around the game. Anything can happen in a 60-game season. I’m all for it.”
In each league, the division winners will be seeded 1-3, the second-place teams 4-6 and the teams with the next two-best records 7-8, which means up to four teams in one division could be in the postseason. The first round pairings will be 1 vs. 8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5.
“This season will be a sprint to a new format that will allow more fans to experience playoff baseball,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
The higher seed in the first round will host all games from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.
“For me personally, a little less than ideal that there’s not more weight given to the division winners,” Gerrit Cole said after winning his Yankees debut, 4-1 at Nationals Park in a game called in the sixth inning because of rain.