Major League Baseball Postseason - Format History - 1994–2011: Three Rounds

1994–2011: Three Rounds

By 1994, further expansion was making it very difficult for a team to make the postseason. Major League Baseball went through a realignment, expanding to three divisions (Eastern, Central, Western) in each league. However, only allowing divisional winners in the postseason would make an odd number of teams in each league, three. To rectify the odd number of teams, the league added wild-cards to each league, imitating the original post-merger NFL system. The wild-card team would be the team with the best record in each league of all the teams that did not win their division. Splitting the leagues into three divisions, plus the addition of a wild-card team, doubled the postseason contenders in each league from two to four, and from four teams overall to eight. The additional teams meant another elimination round was necessary. This new round would become the new first round of the postseason, the best-of-five Division Series. This term had first been used for the extra round required in 1981 due to the "split-season" scheduling anomaly following the midseason baseball players strike. This format was in place for the 1994 season, but the players' strike canceled the postseason. The format was realized on the field in 1995.

Under this format, the wild card team played the top-seeded divisional champion in the Division Series, unless the two teams were in the same division, in which case the wild card team played the second-seeded divisional champion; in both cases the remaining two teams from that league played each other in the other Division Series. The winners of the two Division Series from each league went on to play each other in the League Championship Series. As with the previous postseason format, the winners of each League Championship Series met in the World Series.

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