The day after it was reported that Rob Manfred hopes expanded playoffs become permanent, the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a playoff spot with 16.6 percent of the season left to play. The Dodgers have 10 of 60 games left to play and in a 162-game season, the equivalent would be clinching with 27 games left to play.
If 16-team playoffs become permanent, that a team could clinch in the first week of September or even August won’t just be possible, it will be common. The 2019 Dodgers won 106 games and entered September with a 17-game lead in the National League West, and it still took them until their 146th game (16 games left) to clinch.
With a postseason spot in place, there’s still a point to winning games down the stretch. Obviously, it benefits the Dodgers to hold onto the number one seed, and without rest days in the postseason, setting up their rotation gives them a big advantage.
As a baseball fan, though, it’s hard to get worked up about seeding or giving starters appropriate rest. The Dodgers haven’t played a do-or-die game all season and they won’t play one until October.
While a handful of teams that might not win half their games engage in a battle royale for the eighth spot, the regular season for the best team in the majors has been completely perfunctory.
Manfred knows that there are two weeks left in the season and there isn’t a race worth watching (unless you really care about the Reds, Brewers, Phillies, and Giants battling to see who will lose in the first round). Still, he and ownership are enthusiastic about expanding playoffs because it will make them money in the short term while damaging the sport in the long term. The latter point doesn’t matter to them because they can cut and run before things break bad. The rest of us will just be left with the pieces.
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