MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred defends playoff format amid criticism

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Three of the MLB's top regular-season teams were eliminated quickly this postseason. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Three of the MLB’s top regular-season teams were eliminated quickly this postseason. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) (Rich Schultz via Getty Images)

All three of Major League Baseball’s 100-win regular-season teams have been eliminated from the postseason and combined for one win during the Division Series. That has led to criticism that the playoff format is unfair to baseball’s best teams, giving them too much time off.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t ready to make changes despite some corners of the baseball world lodging complaints as the Atlanta Braves (104 wins) Baltimore Orioles (101), and Los Angeles Dodgers (100) were knocked out in quick fashion.

“It’s only year two,” Manfred said Thursday night via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. “I’m sort of the view you need to give something a chance to work out. I know some of the higher-seeded teams didn’t win. I think if you think about where some of those teams were, there are other explanations than a five-day layoff. But I think we’ll reevaluate in the offseason like we always do and think about if we have the format right.”

MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to a playoff format change beginning with the 2022 postseason. Twelve teams now qualify with the top two division winners in each league earning byes into the division series with the other four teams playing a best-of-three Wild Card series.

The Braves, Dodgers, and Orioles had five full days off between the end of the 2023 regular season and the beginning of the Division Series round. Is that a reward for regular-season success or too much time off?

“I don’t think we need five [off days], but we did need a few,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde following their elimination. “Whether that affected us this series or not, I’m not going to speculate. But it’s a long time off. That’s the bottom line.”

The Braves and Dodgers were in the same situation last year. They finished with two of the top three regular-season records and then had five days off before being eliminated in the division series in four games.

“It’s hard,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last month via the LA Times. “Five days is different than what we’re used to. The All-Star break is three, maybe four days, and that’s long. The [new playoffs] format works for baseball. The fanfare, the teams involved, it’s great for baseball. But when you’re living it, it’s an adjustment.”

One team that hasn’t been affected by the earned time off under the new format? The Houston Astros, who had five full days off before their first series in both 2022 and 2023. Last season, they swept the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees en route to winning the World Series and this year reached their seventh straight ALCS after dispatching the Minnesota Twins in four games.

The Braves (.186) and Dodgers (.177) had the worst two batting averages this postseason and two of the five highest earned run averages. The Orioles pitchers had the second-highest batting average allowed (.284), right behind the Dodgers (.284). Can you point to the pre-playoff break as to why hitting and pitching failed them? Probably not, and unless teams push for a change this format is here to stay.

“It’s one of those things where we would have a conversation about it if we wanted to do something,” Manfred said. “But I think the most important point is the first one: It’s year two. I think we need to give it a little time. We all want the competition to be the best it can possibly be.”

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