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Tom Krasovic: MLB seems likely to lend Padres, others a big hand with expanded postseason

By Tom Krasovic, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

The Padres seem headed to a big victory at the bargaining table. Within a year looms a brown-and-gold windfall that has nothing to do with A.J. Preller's roster-improvement plans and largely won't be of the Padres' doing, though Peter Seidler and Ron Fowler can — and likely will — support efforts to make it happen.

What's in store, it appears, are expanded World Series tournament fields for many years to come, perhaps as soon as 2021. Playoff contention and wild cards will be less difficult to earn, no small perk for a Padres franchise that has posted 11 losing seasons in 13 years and must contend with a Dodgers franchise that has won the past eight NL West races and shows no strong signs of slowing.

Caveat: Playoff expansion isn't certain. MLB management and the players union must hash out details, first for 2021 and then other years under a new labor pact to replace the CBA now entering its final year. This past season's expanded World Series tournament fell under a one-time agreement, influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Follow the money, though, and Padres teams seem assured a broader path to the postseason.

The number of wild-card berths per league appears headed up from two, the number stipulated by the current labor pact dating to 2012.

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MLB's broadcast partners want a bigger World Series tournament because advertisers support it. With pandemic-induced revenue losses part of the puzzle, there's probably too much easy money down that road for MLB owners and players to continue to exclude 20 of 30 teams from the postseason.

"I think it's safe to say that long-term, MLB is highly motivated to expand the playoffs beyond 10 teams," said Jayson Stark, a baseball writer with The Athletic who has reported on MLB-union negotiations for decades. "I'm going to predict it winds up at 14 teams. That's the idea that's been discussed the most. But whether that happens in 2021? Too early to say."

Fourteen playoff teams would mean doubling the number of wild cards per league and giving the Padres a 33.3% shot at a wild card, should they fail to win the five-team West.

The Padres gained from the much-expanded 2020 format that admitted 16 teams (53 percent) into the World Series tournament, alleviating pressure on a franchise seeking its first playoff berth since 2006.

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