WASHINGTON — Commissioner Rob Manfred, a self-admitted fan of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, does not see the need to spare either one of them the wild card in future years, as some have suggested with both on pace for 100-win seasons.
The historic AL East foes are huge magnets for TV ratings, and with them neck-and-neck this year, there may be a temptation in the future for MLB to introduce changes to the postseason format in order to keep the top clubs in each league out of the do-or-die playoff. Rather than expand the current system — which doesn’t have the luxury of time — the reasonable solution would be to reseed the playoff teams.
At the moment, however, Manfred doesn’t sound like he’s in favor of reshuffling the postseason field. He wants a wire-to-wire battle between the Yankees and Red Sox. In order to do that, the stakes need to remain high.
“When we went to the one-game wild card, we did it for two fundamental reasons,” Manfred said. “We wanted to make sure that we did everything possible that teams played hard through our 162-game season. We take great pride in the fact that our regular season is meaningful and we always want it to be meaningful, so how does the current format stack up on that goal?
“It seems to me, that if the standings finished where they are today, under the old system, the Yankees and the Red Sox wouldn’t care who won the American League East. In contrast, under the new system, we are all going to be treated to a pennant race that goes all the way through the end of September, and they’re gong to be trying to win every single game to avoid that one game wild card. I’m pretty good with how it all looks.”
Even though Manfred added that “nobody appreciates the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry more than I do,” the commissioner stressed he would feel the same about the playoff structure regardless who the top contenders might be.
“If it was the Brewers and the Reds that might be winning 100 games, the uproar would probably be a little less,” Manfred said. “So I don’t think you should get into redesigning your system based on the outcome in a particular year — particularly when you’re getting the fundamental dynamics you wanted in the first place.”