NEW YORK — Max Scherzer He favors a radical overhaul of MLB’s playoff format, which would see the highest seed in the first round of a 14-team postseason start a best-of-five series with a 1-0 lead.
Major League Baseball and the locked-out players, who will resume talks on Sunday, agree that the 10-team postseason needs to be expanded; that’s been the picture since 2012, aside from the 16 teams in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The union prefers 12 and the sides seem to be heading towards that number, but Scherzer said players would consider 14 if clubs accepted the “phantom win” format.
Under MLB’s 14-team plan, the division winner with the best regular-season record in each league would earn a bye and advance directly to the Division Series. The other two division winners would pick their opponents and be home for a full best-of-three round.
The division winner with the second-best record would choose their opponent from the three lowest-ranked wild card teams. The division winner with the third-best record would get to choose from the remaining two wild cards. The main wild card would face the team remaining after the division winners make their picks and also play all games at home.
The selections would be made in a televised program.
“We felt like the competition could erode in that scenario, and we had specific examples from different players speaking out that specifically highlighted it,” Scherzer said after the breakdown of labor talks Tuesday.
“Continuing those division winners down, we didn’t see the right incentive for those other two division winners,” the New York Mets pitcher added. “We didn’t understand why they didn’t want to accept us in a more competitive format.”
The lockout reached day 94 on Saturday, four days after commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the regular season, which was scheduled to start on March 31. Players were working on their response to MLB’s latest offer.
Before talks broke down, the players said they could agree to a 12-team postseason subject to an overall deal. There remains the possibility that 14 teams could return to discussions, depending on trade-offs in the final stages of negotiations.
Under the postseason plan that the union has discussed but is hesitant to propose, the top seed would be home for all games and would need two wins to advance, while the visiting team would have to win three times.
A team with the first-round bye would be out for at least five days, possibly complicating the starting pitcher’s plans, and fans of the lowest seed in the first round would not get any home games. Also, MLB doesn’t like that the “ghost game” doesn’t generate broadcast rights payments.
“The 14-team format that MLB originally proposed offers significant advantages to division winners and provides incentives to win at all levels of the group,” MLB spokesman Glen Caplin said Saturday. “In an effort to compromise, MLB agreed to a 12-team format after discussion of formats that include a ‘ghost game.’ MLB made it clear that ‘ghost game’ poses serious problems and is not a viable path forward.” .
“Ghost win” has been used in the Korea Baseball Organization since 2015, when its playoffs expanded from four teams to five in the 10-club league. The new best-of-three wild-card round has ended in one game in five of seven seasons, with the lowest-seeded team forcing another game in 2016 and last year, then losing the finals both times.
“Working with the union’s staff economists, we felt we had come up with a format that would incentivize competition throughout the season, especially for division winners,” Scherzer said. “We didn’t see that that one home advantage was going to be the piece to try to go out there and win your division.”
Without the “ghost win” format, Scherzer said “a 12-team format made more sense to us.”
The pitcher Andrew Millerwho like Scherzer is a member of the players’ union’s eight-man executive committee, said Scherzer’s thoughts on the postseason carry weight within the union.
“A core goal of this negotiation is to increase competition, and there’s no way we’re going to walk away from the table without something that does that,” Miller said. “We’ve spent a lot of time debating the merits of various playoff formats and there’s probably no one better to ask in the room than Max. But we’re not going to do anything to sacrifice this season’s competition. Anything that points toward mediocrity, that It’s the antithesis of our game and who we are as players.”
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MLB negotiations to resume on Sunday