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Would expanded playoffs help accelerate the Orioles’ rebuild?

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Last season’s expanded playoffs allowed up to four teams from one division to make the postseason. With the Orioles moving to the second phase of their rebuild, expanded playoffs could provide a quicker shot at meaningful games.

ALDS Game 1: Detroit Tigers v. Baltimore Orioles

Playoffs? Playoffs!?

Okay, that’s fair. If I stumbled across an article that mentioned the Orioles and playoffs in the same sentence, I might channel my inner Jim Mora too. That being said, I root for the Orioles. When I hear that Major League Baseball is pushing for expanded playoffs to stick around, I’m immediately going to wonder how that could impact the O’s moving forward.

It’s important to point out that a decision has yet to be made on the a playoff format moving forward. In fact, an expanded playoff is only in the news right now because the players association recently shot down an offer that included the notion. Still, Major League Baseball did not formally announce last year’s 16-team format until late July.

The bottom line is that Major League Baseball is not college football. It does not take a decade of complaints to force a few more teams into the postseason. And while last year’s expansion may have spanned from the pandemic, there’s no rule that says everything must return to the way it was.

As Andrea SK pointed out last week, the Birds were a playoff team halfway through last August. While the unavoidable decline eventually took place, it made games more entertaining during a shortened season. Everyone should be excited for a full season of baseball, but a higher number of games would reduce the odds of a surprise run by the Orioles.

Even if MLB and the players association fail to reach an agreement for this season, expansion will be a hot topic in labor negotiations once the collective bargaining agreement expires in December. The change, much like a universal designated hitter, feels inevitable.

Looking ahead, 2022 appears to be the first year where playoff talk in Baltimore may not be immediately met with a YouTube clip of an old NFL coach. If the Orioles continue the trend of increasing their winning percentage each year under Mike Elias, they could fall somewhere around .500 at the end of next year. In 2020, the Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs with a record of 32-28.

As the remainder of the AL East loads up on top talent, it’s easy to see why the rebuilding Birds will need all the help they can get. A playoff format that allows up to four teams from one division to play in the postseason would be extremely beneficial to a young Orioles club.

Last year’s format took the top two teams from each division and two additional Wild Card teams. All eight teams in both leagues took part in a three-game series. A short series would give an up-and-coming Orioles team an opportunity to make some noise early on.

While I may be optimistic, I’m not crazy. I’m not going to make the case for the O’s sneaking in and streaking their way to a World Series (we have to wait until 2027 for that). Last season, despite the expansion, the top seeded Dodgers defeat the top seeded Rays in the Fall Classic. Nevertheless, Toronto’s young core got a taste of what playoff baseball feels like.

In 2012, Manny Machado made his major league debut in the Orioles’ first playoff push in over a decade. The idea of Adley Rutschman aiding Baltimore in a playoff push as early as 2022 is just too good not to dream about.

The concept of Baltimore’s youngsters developing while playing meaningful baseball really does mean something. It would provide an opportunity for a young club to gain valuable experience without the pressure of expectations.

Anyone that has followed Mike Elias knows he would not mortgage the future of a young club on any silly deadline deals. The Orioles do not have to alter any portion of their long-term plan, but playoff baseball as early as 2022 sounds like a deal a high percentage of fans would take right now.

How do you feel about expanded playoffs? Should baseball return to the previous format, keep the expanded version from 2020 or something else entirely? Would an expanded postseason heighten your enthusiasm for a rebuilding O’s squad? Let’s talk about it!