The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The pointlessness of the playoffs


A social media firestorm was created last week when a rumor spread that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was entertaining the idea of changing baseball’s playoff format to a fantasy draft system where the top seeded teams would be able to choose their opponents in the first round.

Fans of baseball, a sport entrenched in tradition, were understandably put off by the idea of having a televised event where the best teams in baseball would choose who they thought were the weakest of the playoff teams to play.

This idea is in fact silly. It would purely be in place to further the entertainment value, not the quality, of the MLB playoffs.

However, while it may seem that the point of playoffs (or championships) is to reward and find the “best” team that season, they very rarely accomplish that. Playoffs, in every sport, have garnered a false sense of importance. They are just there for entertainment.

Let’s start with baseball. Baseball’s regular season consists of 162 games. The maximum amount of games a team can play in the MLB postseason is 20. Last year’s champions, the Washington Nationals, won the World Series in 17 games. For 17 games, the Nationals were the best team in baseball.

That is 10.5% of the regular season. To give context, through the first 50 games, the Nationals were 19-31. In every playoff system, they all face the same mathematical conundrum, the sample size is dwarfed by the regular season. If the Nationals were the best team in baseball, why were they the second wild card?

It is just a fact that every year it is most likely a team other than the best regular season team that will win the championship. It’s unfair that once we reach the end of a 16, 82 or 162 game season, all that success can basically count for nothing.

Take the 2001 Seattle Mariners for example. Did your brain not immediately turn to one of the best MLB teams of all time? Really? The Mariners tied the MLB and set the American League record for wins in a season that year with 116.

You would think a team like that led by American League MVP Ichiro Suzuki would rank higher than 20th on MLB Network’s list of the top teams from the expansion era (since 1961).

Ask anybody who had the best regular season record in the NFL two years ago. They most likely won’t know, but the majority of even average football fans can tell you who won the Super Bowl.

There will always be the argument that if a team can’t hack it in the playoffs, they weren’t really the best team. However, this is a concerning philosophy because in many leagues the playoffs are officiated in such a way that at times they are barely recognizable as the same sport.

During the regular season, refereeing pretty much stays at a constant level. Some calls go your way, some don’t; and for the most part it evens out. In the playoffs, refereeing takes center stage, and in leagues like the NHL and NBA, referees will often be more apt to let physical play go in the playoffs that they would usually call as infractions during the regular season.

By having the most games and the most consistent level of refereeing, the regular season provides a clearer picture of a team’s talent level than a short series, where a single missed call can sway momentum in an instant.

Playoffs are for the fans. They are intense, epic tournaments between the best team’s from the regular season. Each game is important and every play comes with much higher stakes.

They are amazing entertainment and this is by no means a “cancel the playoffs” column. It is just pointing out that in the end, playoffs aren’t the best way to figure out the best team and maybe the MLB has the right idea (maybe not the current idea floating around) in trying to lean in to the entertainment side.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *