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.
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.
The higher seed in the first round will host all games from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.
Tiebreaker games, which have produced famous home runs by Bobby Thomson and Bucky Dent, are eliminated. Ties would be broken by head-to-head record, followed by better record within a team’s division and record in the last 20 games within the division. If still tied, the standard would be last 21 games within a division, then 22, etc.
Teams could finish the regular season with differing games played; regular-season postponements would be made up at the discretion of Manfred.
As part of the deal, MLB agreed to guarantee a postseason pool that would be $50 million: $20 million if the first round is played and $10 million for each additional round. The postseason pool usually comprises ticket money from the postseason, but baseball anticipates playing the entire year in empty ballparks due to the coronavirus.