MLB’s playoff format has been the subject of increasing controversy, but league commissioner Rob Manfred is stressing caution.
Already featuring a series of upstart teams in this year’s postseason, the upset wave has continued as the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tampa Bay Rays — who each won at least 99 games during the regular season — collectively won just a single playoff game and failed to advance beyond the division series.
Instead, the league championship series matchups of the Houston Astros-Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies-Arizona Diamondbacks feature three wild card teams and a combined 354 regular-season wins — the lowest total ever for an MLB final four.
The current, 12-team postseason format emerged from the labor deal struck early last year with the MLB Players Association.
“It’s only Year 2,” Manfred said prior to Game 4 of the division series between the Phillies and Braves. “I’m sort of the view [that] you need to give something a chance to work out. And I know some of the higher-seeded teams didn’t win. If you think about where some of those teams were, there are other explanations than a five-day layoff.”
Viewership Down, Prices Up
The wild card round ended with a television viewership decline, and the league faces more potential ratings struggles with the remaining teams — even if they include the nation’s fourth-, fifth-, seventh-, and 11th-largest markets. The national followings of the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, or Los Angeles Dodgers will be missed.
On a local level, though, the Phillies’ upcoming LCS matchup against the Diamondbacks has already driven the most expensive list prices ever on the secondary ticket market for that playoff round, according to ticket aggregator TicketIQ — an average of $1,488 per ticket.