With playoff expansion, it’s playoffs or bust for the San Diego Padres

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball announced that there is an agreement to expand the playoffs for the shortened 2020 season from 10 teams to 16. 

Baseball is going to be weird when the season kicks off this weekend, and it just got a lot weirder. MLB announced that the playoffs would be expanded to 16 teams only for the 2020 season, which will allow over 53% of the teams in the league to make the postseason.

Indeed, this is not unprecedented in sports. In fact, baseball has been more on the stingy side of how many of their teams they grant access to the postseason.

League % of teams in the postseason
NBA 53.3%
NHL 51.6%
NFL 43.8%
MLB 33.3%

Major League Baseball now joins the NBA as the most gracious with their allowance of teams in the postseason at 53.6 percent, at least for this season.

This means that the Padres need only finish second in the National League West to clinch a playoff spot or have the best or second-best record among third-place teams.

This begs the question…is it now playoffs or bust for the San Diego Padres in 2020?

Yes.

How quickly things can change from just late last year when the Friars were floundering in another 90-loss season. Why the sudden urgency from a team that hasn’t had a winning season in 10 years? Simple. Ownership has made it clear that if the Padres do not contend this season, “heads will roll.” Now that eight of the 15 teams in the National League will make the playoffs, and the Friars will find themselves without excuses if they fall short again. Rebuilding is long over, and now it’s time for results on the field.

Now, this is sports in 2020 where coronavirus rules all. An outbreak could derail the whole darn thing before we even get that far. That might be the only way the Padres brass can wiggle out of flopping once more. As we saw with the unfortunate news of Juan Soto testing positive for COVID-19 for the Washington Nationals, it all could come crashing down if a few key players get sick. There are certainly more important things going on than baseball at the moment.

Strictly talking baseball, the talent is abound for the Friars. The San Diego Padres have maybe never been this talented in their franchise’s 51-year history, at least with young players who are oozing with tools and upside. The left side of the infield is set for the next half-decade, at least with Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, who should, collectively, be one of the most productive shortstop-third base combos in the entire league. Chris Paddack is on the verge of becoming an ace, but he might not have that title for long as MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño might be even better.

In this shortened season, the Padres have a distinct advantage of one of the best bullpens in baseball. Kirby Yates had a historically good year as the closer in 2019, and this is his last year with the squad unless the Padres come to him with an extension. General manager A.J. Preller has certainly made deals to improve the bullpen that suggests they are going all in this season.

Realistically, if the Padres can hold their own against the Dodgers better than they have in the past and hover around .500 against Los Angeles, while also having a winning record against the other three N.L, West teams, they should be in the playoffs and end the 14-year drought.

Additionally, this is the only year Major League Baseball is doing this. If the Padres fail to make the postseason when the field is 16 teams, what happens when it goes back down to 10 next year? It’s playoffs or bust this year.

The heat on the stove just got turned up a little bit hotter with the announcement that three more teams from each league will be included in the playoffs. If the Padres are not one of those teams, fingers will be pointed upwards at A.J. Preller and ownership.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.