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Friday, September 18, 2020

Expanded playoffs beyond 2020? Inside the MLB push — and the pushback

But, in a post-pandemic era, the prospect of additional MLB revenue from an expanded postseason has gone from “we’d like it” to “we need it.” As a high-profile example, the New York Yankees’ ticket revenue next year could be down 33% from last year, and ticket sales might not fully recover until 2024, according to Fitch, the credit rating agency, which this week evaluated a Yankee Stadium bond refinancing.

That provides the players with some rare clout in labor talks. The players union must approve any playoff expansion, and it is no secret how badly the owners want that money. The league included an expanded postseason in each of the four offers it made the union in return-to-play negotiations. After negotiations failed and Manfred imposed the season, the league again asked for an expanded postseason for 2020 and 2021; the players got $50 million and signed off for this year only.

“There’s a lot of concern about it, whether it’s even a good idea,” a high-ranking baseball official said, “There’s a lot of concern about whether it’s going to incentivize or disincentivize competition.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 18, 2020 at 04:52 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: expanded playoffs

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   1. John Northey Posted: September 18, 2020 at 10:25 PM (#5977605)
For players it is a good thing in many respects - more teams likely to make playoffs = more teams with an incentive to sign players for higher dollar amounts. If odds are better than 50-50 to make the playoffs then you have to invest in it. Players should 'suggest' expansion as a way to add revenue (as much as $2 billion) for existing teams. The fact it would add 52 more jobs makes it a big plus for players. Or maybe ask for rosters to be expanded again to 28 permanently. Again, more jobs but not an obvious plus for owners in any way.

IMO expansion is a lock as owners want that cash now (and some might need it now). Expanded playoffs also should be a lock as I see pluses for both sides there. Other than that the only other thing I see players chasing is a much higher minimum salary but that owners will push back hard on.
   2. Jay Seaver Posted: September 18, 2020 at 10:46 PM (#5977613)
For players it is a good thing in many respects - more teams likely to make playoffs = more teams with an incentive to sign players for higher dollar amounts.

Prevailing opinion I've seen says the opposite - that if you can get to the playoffs with 85 wins, there's no reason to push hard to get far past that.

IMO expansion is a lock as owners want that cash now (and some might need it now).

Enough that they'd approve a bid from Montreal with a lightly-refurbished Stade Olympique - or any other place that is just not going to get the city/state to build a new stadium? Who else but Montreal and Nashville seems likely to put a bid together?
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: September 18, 2020 at 11:07 PM (#5977619)
Justin Timberlake just joined the Nashville MLB push
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 18, 2020 at 11:12 PM (#5977621)
Hard to believe any municipality is going to be able to spend on a ball park for a loooong time.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2020 at 01:33 AM (#5977644)
Now, now Snapper! Think of all those construction jobs!! (That will last 12 months) And all those vendor jobs!! (that are part-time min wage) And all those tourist dollars that will come flowing in!!! (that never flow in)

Building baseball stadiums is like printing money!!!!
   6. DJS Thinks Apples and Oranges are Similar Posted: September 19, 2020 at 01:35 AM (#5977645)
Yeah, no chance this doesn't depress salaries. Teams don't pay players because they're good teams, teams pay players because they think they can *improve* the team. The more success is random rather than derived from talent, the less reason there is to spend on talent. They *could* probably design a system in which there are 16 playoff teams and you preserve the probability that good teams advance, but this one ain't it.

Players -- and even more so their agents -- do recognize this phenomenon. I talked with seven or eight agents about this in the last few days and I think two had an expletive-free response.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: September 19, 2020 at 04:32 AM (#5977647)
I don't know how the playoff money is split these days but players need a big share if they're gonna do this for the reasons in #2 and #6. I wonder if the owners would link it to, say, a 154-game schedule which would put further downward pressure on payroll. If the proportion of MLB revenue derived from the playoffs keeps going up, the players need to fight for their share (distributed among all players).

This would in particular seem to be a further nail in the coffin for the older vet/bench FA type. You sign that guy because you want that extra win and to protect yourself against a serious injury to a starting player. The extra win's less important and the injury is similarly less damaging. If you decide you need that extra win badly enough, you can probably swing a mid-season deal for a pending FA.

I think the union really does need to wake up. The salary-production relationship has always been out of whack and teams are acting more appropriately now financially. I don't think they have much chance but the union has to find a way to get young players paid big money (without overly screwing over the current older players). It would probably be easier to pull off if minor-leaguers were part of the union.

And the lux tax threshold needs to go up by a min of $100 M. Seriously. The common/shared revenue payment in 2019 was (give or take) equal to the threshold. All that extra revenue that the Yanks, Dodgers, Cubs, etc. generate is now pretty much 100% owner profit while nobody is really forcing the Marlins to spend their $200 M.
   8. BDC Posted: September 19, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5977657)
I don't know how the playoff money is split these days but players need a big share

I wonder about that more & more. Last year, Max Scherzer made $1.33M per regular-season start. He then made five postseason starts at an average of $76,000 apiece. Something is off there.

Of course, one could argue that the existence of the postseason – whether they made it or not – is the only reason the Nationals could pay Scherzer so much in the regular season to start with. But work is work, and people think about it in a certain way. Let's say my employer tells me that I'm going to make $90K this academic year to each six courses, whether or not we get enough enrollment to offer a seventh in the summer. But if we do get enough, I must teach that summer course for $850. That isn't going to sit right, whatever the accounting process.
   9. . Posted: September 19, 2020 at 11:33 AM (#5977663)
I'm not sure what the teams are planning for, but I see little reason to believe there will be full-bore mask-free crowds in 2021. We're already seeing people, including Fauci, come out and say that even a vaccine won't let us "get back to normal." And once you add mandatory masks and Covid theatre to the security theatre already present at our stadia, I see little reason to believe paid attendance and revenue will be anything like it was in 2019. Adding a temperature check line and a mandatory mask (*) to the security, bag-check lines? Thanks but no thanks. Maybe for a Rangers playoff game, but nothing else.

Without a big cultural rethink on the whole Covid risk-reward thing, for-profit sports are in massive trouble.

(*) And likely forced entry pods and bathrooms.
   10. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 19, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5977664)
'm not sure what the teams are planning for, but I see little reason to believe there will be full-bore mask-free crowds in 2021. We're already seeing people, including Fauci, come out and say that even a vaccine won't let us "get back to normal." And once you add mandatory masks and Covid theatre to the security theatre already present at our stadia, I see little reason to believe paid attendance and revenue will be anything like it was in 2019. Adding a temperature check line and a mandatory mask (*) to the security, bag-check lines? Thanks but no thanks. Maybe for a Rangers playoff game, but nothing else.


1975 was the last time I didn’t attend a game in person. In most of those years I attended 10 if not 20 or 30 games. I was a season ticket holder for 22 seasons (partial for four, full for 18). Suffice it to say there are few places on planet earth I would rather be than Fenway Park.

Having said that I can’t imagine going to a game any time remotely soon. Next year is a virtual certainty that I won’t go even with a vaccine and then once the vaccine arrives the rush to put it into production will create enough doubt in my mind that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable and of course there are enough anti-vaxxers* out there that won’t get it anyway so why put myself at risk?

* - Not casting judgment on those folks here, simply acknowledging that they exist so I need to be prepared to deal with that.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: September 19, 2020 at 01:22 PM (#5977671)
- Not casting judgment on those folks here, simply acknowledging that they exist so I need to be prepared to deal with that.


I'm fine with you casting judgement on those folks... now if you mean anti-rush to the market -- vaccers, that is a different story, but anti-vaxxers are on the short list of people too stupid to be allowed to breed, sterilize them along with flat earthers, 9/11 deniers, moon landing deniers, bigfoot believers and the cult of trumpers(not pro-Republicans which is a different and actually a valid thing)
   12. JRVJ Posted: September 19, 2020 at 09:16 PM (#5977715)
There's a chance that the 2021 season will also be affected by COVID (i.e., it's not entirely clear that the pandemic will actually be under control in February/March 2021).

I do not write this lightly, but the point is that it's not a given that the 2021 MLB season will be a 162-game season, or even a 120-game season. That being the case, I'm not getting too upset at this point about the 2021 playoff picture being too different from the 2019 playoff picture.
   13. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 19, 2020 at 09:46 PM (#5977729)
There's a chance that the 2021 season will also be affected by COVID


A chance? How about "a virtual certainty". Even if the vaccine is approved and produced in sufficient quantities by the start of the season (a pair of big assumptions), actually injecting hundreds of millions of people with it is going to take a LONG time.

That said:

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable and of course there are enough anti-vaxxers* out there that won’t get it anyway so why put myself at risk?


If it's X% effective at preventing the disease, once you've got it, your risk is (1 - X)%. Given a reasonably high X (and I know that's one of the things you're worried about), once you get it the anti-vaxxers aren't a threat to you. They're a threat to each other, and to people who haven't gotten the vaccine yet, and to people who can't (for other health reasons) get vaccinated, but the risk to you personally is rather small.

They're likely a bigger threat to the 2021 season than to particular baseball fans. The roll-out is going to take a long time, hence the rate at which the rate of spread of this damn thing decreases will be slow, and the idiots who aren't going to get vaccinated are going to slow it down even further. That is, they are going to prolong the time that this is a public health threat, and so delay things going back to normal.
   14. John Northey Posted: September 20, 2020 at 12:10 AM (#5977743)
The 'more playoffs depress salaries' I'm sure is news to the NBA and NHL. Both leagues see teams hunt down playoff performers each off-season, paying a premium for them. In baseball we've seen this too - best example (as a Jays fan) was Jack Morris after his 10 inning 7th game shutout getting a record deal for pitchers from the Blue Jays as they were always in the hunt, never able to get to the World Series and were desperate to get over that final hump. Figures he was 0-3 in his 4 post-season starts that year and didn't pitch at all in the 1993 playoffs.
   15. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: September 20, 2020 at 01:11 AM (#5977746)
The 'more playoffs depress salaries' I'm sure is news to the NBA and NHL.


Both leagues are much more driven by stars than MLB. In MLB, you pay for the stars because you need every win you can get to make it to the postseason. Then you hope that the luck goes your way. In the NBA, especially, you pay for the stars to win you championships because they actually can. You're not paying the high salaries to get to the postseason.

If it's easier to get to the postseason, there's a lot less incentive for MLB owners to spend big money since the championships are just a roll of the dice.
   16. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 20, 2020 at 09:44 AM (#5977749)
New York Yankees’ ticket revenue next year could be down 33% from last year, and ticket sales might not fully recover until 2024

Funny what being at the center of a global pandemic (and charging a gazillion dollars for tickets) will do.

sterilize (...) the cult of trumpers

...aaaand this is how you get more Trump. (I'd say we've had enough Trump, thanks.)

   17. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 20, 2020 at 11:58 AM (#5977759)
...aaaand this is how you get more Trump. (I'd say we've had enough Trump, thanks.)


RMc is totally right about this. I've linked to it before, but Dan Kahan's work is really important for this topic. Here he is writing about risk perception, but the lesson is broadly applicable. For the bit that's relevant to talking to people who disagree with you, see pp. 35-36.

It's true that I called anti-vaxxer idiots, but, first, I make mistakes too, and, second, I don't expect that there are any of them around here.
   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 20, 2020 at 12:37 PM (#5977763)
. . . I don't expect that there are any of them around here.
There is an anti-vax contingent in the ‘Empty Stadium’ coronavirus thread, often suggesting that the politically inconvenient timing of vaccine development would make it suspect.
   19. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 20, 2020 at 12:51 PM (#5977765)
Ah, I've been avoiding that thread.
   20. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: September 20, 2020 at 02:51 PM (#5977773)
Going back to the expanded playoffs - Fangraphs argues that the expanded playoffs discourages "greatness", but doesn't it encourage "goodness"? In other words, there would be more teams on the cusp of the playoffs, willing to perhaps add a (possibly veteran) bat or arm, or at least not hold a fire sale halfway through the season (hello this year's San Francisco Giants). Of course, the playoffs could be structured with advantages for higher-seeded teams (byes and similar mechanisms) to also encourage teams on the cusp of a division championship to add even more to avoid getting knocked out in an earlier round (hello last year's Oakland Athletics). Wouldn't the players' union be more interested in more-but-smaller veteran contracts than fewer-but-larger superstar contracts? Seems like the players union would favor fewer Brian Harpers and more Trevor Rosenthals. The players union more than anything hates tanking, because it almost by definition means more players on rookie contracts. I think baseball as a whole hates tanking, and hates clubs with no chance of contention for years on end, because it kills fan interest. From an agent's standpoint, they would much prefer one or two superstar contracts to a bunch of mid-range contracts, because it's a lot more work for them for the same $$ payoff.
   21. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 20, 2020 at 06:17 PM (#5977788)
Sure, but if tons of teams get into the post season there isn't much value in just getting to the post season. And since the post season is mostly random, there's not much incentive to try to improve your team to win in the post season. Indeed, there's less of an incentive than there is now, since there's an even larger pool of teams that could get lucky and knock off a good team.
   22. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 20, 2020 at 07:08 PM (#5977796)
the post season is mostly random

Is it? Don't the better teams tend to win in the playoffs? Has anyone ever done a study of this?
   23. DL from MN Posted: September 20, 2020 at 07:38 PM (#5977800)
Who else but Montreal and Nashville seems likely to put a bid together?


San Antonio. Texans love building stadiums.
   24. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: September 20, 2020 at 10:23 PM (#5977843)
Is it? Don't the better teams tend to win in the playoffs? Has anyone ever done a study of this?


I'll leave it for others to find the study. But, first, of course better teams "tend" to win (that's pretty much what "better team" means), but I doubt it's enough to make a difference; in baseball any stretch of 3-to-7 games is going to be largely random. This is the reason that Bean's #### doesn't work in the playoffs.


Anecdotes from today's games:

The Nationals and the Marlins played a doubleheader. The Marlins won the first game 2-1, and lost the second 0-15.

The Rockies (23-29) beat the Dodgers (38-16) by a score of 6-3.

The Reds (27-27) beat the White Sox (34-19) by a score of 7-3.

The Giants (26-26) beat the A's (33-20) by a score of 14-2.

And so it goes.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: September 20, 2020 at 11:31 PM (#5977855)
So I just took a look at the playoff results since the playoffs expanded to 10 teams. I chose all series (including the one-gamer to open) where there was a difference of three wins or more between the two opponents.


The better team has gone 31-24, which seems about right to me. It's not random, but fits in the general sense that in baseball, the "better team" is going to fare much worse than the better team in some other sports (most notably, basketball).

FWIW, two seasons really stand out. In 2012, the better teams went 2-6, and in 2014 the better teams went 1-4. So when the Giants aren't the champs, the playoffs are much more predictable.
   26. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:30 AM (#5977866)
You don’t start going back to full stadiums once there’s a vaccine. You start going back once the vaccine has reduced the number of cases out there to a trivial amount.

Vaccines are never 100% effective and you never get 100% of people taking them. But as long as it’s “effective enough“, and enough people take It, it should significantly reduce community transmission when combined with the fact that a decent number of people also have some sort of immunity from having has the disease.

But if you’re concerned, don’t simply bank on that and go to choir practice or Zumba class or whatever. Wait to see the actual cases in your community go down first. If the vaccine is effective we’ll see it in the numbers.
   27. BDC Posted: September 21, 2020 at 09:57 AM (#5977877)
And of course with imbalanced schedules and sometimes just a couple of games separating worse teams from better, it can be difficult to clearly say which team was better going in.

I also get the sense that with ace starting pitchers sometimes changing clubs late in a season, an October version of a team may not really correspond to the one that racked up a given record April through August.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: September 21, 2020 at 10:13 AM (#5977884)
I also get the sense that with ace starting pitchers sometimes changing clubs late in a season, an October version of a team may not really correspond to the one that racked up a given record April through August.


Absolutely. I used 3 games difference just to provide a little separation, but there are still going to be examples where the teams as lined up in October by record don't reflect which team was the strongest at that point in time. Whether accounting for that would result in a better record for the better teams is way beyond either my skill or interest levels.
   29. Rally Posted: September 21, 2020 at 10:43 AM (#5977889)
In an 8 team league playoff, at least for the 1-8 and 2-7 matchup you probably will have a .600 team playing a .500 team. So the better team should win 60% of their games, that's easy enough. To that, add in home field advantage, since the better team hosts all the games, and run the odds on best 2 of 3. I guess the better team should win 70-75% of the time?

So pick the 4 best teams in MLB, by the second round we should expect one of them not to be there.

On home field advantage, last year home team won 53% of the games. How has that held up this year with no fans in attendance? .544

   30. Paul d mobile Posted: September 21, 2020 at 11:46 AM (#5977906)
I can't think of any Montreal-based billionaires who'd be able to fund an expansion team.
   31. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 21, 2020 at 01:42 PM (#5977926)
I also get the sense that with ace starting pitchers sometimes changing clubs late in a season, an October version of a team may not really correspond to the one that racked up a given record April through August.
It’s not just pitchers, 2nd half hitter acquisitions can make a team better than their overall record, too, and a boost could come from bringing up minor leaguers in the 2nd half of the season, as well as from being able to ‘shorten the bench’ by mostly relying on 3 starters and the top half of the bullpen for the meaningful playoff innings. It cuts both ways, late season injuries may make a team worse than their overall record would indicate, but some of the perceived randomness of the playoffs is just the difficulty of evaluating teams’ status when the games are played, rather than over the entire regular season.
   32. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: September 21, 2020 at 02:13 PM (#5977934)
Besides injuries and late-season transactions, another factor in playoff success/failure is team construction. For playoffs as recently scheduled, with many off-days, a team with a few dominant starting pitchers and a few dominant relievers will fare better than a team with a staff of good-but-not-great. The same goes for hitters - teams with a deep bench and many good-but-not-great players versus a team with a few great players that are garbage when those players take a day off may win the same number of games, but the latter team will be better in the postseason. To take recent (admittedly imperfect) examples, the Oakland A's have tended to win during the regular season with a number of good-but-not-great players, especially on the starting staff, and have suffered in the postseason as a result, whereas the S.F. Giants were able to ride Madison Bumgarner and a few good bullpen arms to a 3 championships.

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