Chicago Cubs: The problem with the MLB Playoff format
After defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series, the Cubs officially have the best record amongst teams still in the MLB Playoffs.
Yet even with this record, they will not have home-field advantage in the National League Championship Series or World Series. The league needs to address their MLB playoff format.
Chicago’s lack of home-field advantage for the World Series is understandable, as the American League won the All-Star game back in July. By winning the exhibition, the AL guaranteed whichever team won the ALCS would host four of the seven World Series Games.
This rule has been in place since 2003 All-Star Game and has been beneficial in motivating the players to do their best in the game. With all of that being said, it is clear that how the league seeds its playoffs teams has become a huge problem.
For this season and the foreseeable future, the division winners will be the top three seeds for their respective leagues, with the top seed going to the division winner with the best record.
The Wild Card teams will be the fourth and fifth seeds, with the fourth seed being the team with a better record between the two. But what if the Wild Card teams have a better record than a division winner?
The scenario just mentioned is exactly what happened this season. The Pirates (98 wins) and the Cubs (97 wins) each had better records than the NL West champion Dodgers (92 wins) and the NL East champion Mets (90 wins).
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
Yet somehow, the Cubs will be the road team for the majority of the NLCS whether they play Los Angeles or New York.
In addition to this, the Pirates and Cubs were forced to play a one game, winner takes all match to decide who would have a place in the real postseason. Because Chicago won, it advanced to the NLDS to play their division rival with the best record in the entire MLB, the St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card teams are the lowest seed, so they are forced to play the top overall seed).
What exactly does all of this mean? Essentially, two of the MLB’s best three teams were to be eliminated by the time the NLCS began. Only one team had a shot to advance to the World Series, and it had to go through the previously mentioned other best two teams in baseball.
Baseball needs its best teams fighting for a shot to go to or win the World Series, not eliminating one another in the first round or two.
This whole situation is without a doubt a rare occurrence. For the first time in baseball history, three of the best records in the league came from the same division.
Divisional play began in 1969 and six division play with was created in 1994. Regardless, the MLB is totally off base with what they are doing.
Basically, the league needs to forget about holding division winners to a higher standard and seed the playoffs according to who has the best record.
This same rule was established by the NBA in September, as division winners will no longer be guaranteed a top-four playoff seed out of the eight teams in each league (East and West).
If the MLB follows suit and changes their playoff format like so, this year’s National League playoff picture would have looked as follows.
NL Wild Card Game: Mets at Dodgers
NLDS: Wild Card winner at Cardinals
NLDS: Cubs at Pirates
With this format, the Cubs or Pirates would possibly still had to beat St. Louis to advance to the World Series, but it would not have to do so until the NLCS. Assuming the Cardinals beat the Mets/Dodgers, two of the best three teams in baseball would fight it out in a seven-game trip for a birth in the World Series opposed to the Division Series.
Would this not have been more entertaining?
All in all, this year’s playoff scenario may never happen again, but regardless, it did this year. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred needs to take a long look at the future because the fact that two of the game’s best three teams are already eliminated is preposterous.
But hey, at least the Cubs were the team to advance, right?