Which League has the Best Playoffs: MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL?

best playoffs

Best Part of Pro Sports

The playoffs are a special time in sports. Fans are on the edge of their seats, players are little more nervous, and the margin of error is as slim as possible. The chance to win a title is a dream that keeps you up at night. It’s the culmination of all the hard work done in the offseason and regular season.

Keeping that in mind, I pose this question. What sport has the best playoffs? For the purpose of this argument, we’re choosing from the four major sports – MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL.

Let the debate begin.

4. NBA

“Why do I even bother if I already know what’s going to happen? It’s going to be the Cavs vs. Warriors in the NBA finals?” – Average fan/basketball hater.

I love the NBA. Watching the best players in the world night in and night out is great television. We live in an era that has some of the best players ever to lace them up. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, James Harden, and the legend himself, LeBron James, are all in the prime of their career. Their basketball abilities are unfathomable.

However, there is some truth to the “we already know the outcome” statement. For an 82 game season, there isn’t too much drama that occurs in the playoffs. The Warriors represented the West in four straight seasons, and LeBron represented the East in eight (!!!) straight finals. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few series make it to 7 games, but on the flip side, there are A LOT of blowouts. That’s not exactly must-see television. Take a look at last year’s playoffs.

Thankfully, the Celtics were competitive enough to force a few Game 7s. However, as great as LeBron James was last year, the Cavs had no chance in a 7 game series against the Warriors. There is not a lot of parity. Maybe this year will be different, and a new team will emerge as champion!

Just kidding. The Warriors will beat the _________ in 5 games…again.

3. NFL

What the NFL has on its side is a favorable length to the season. 16 games to a season may be easier to watch and keep track of than a 162 game baseball season. It also stresses the importance of the regular season. In the playoffs, the NFL has Divisional Weekend, which is arguably the best weekend in sports. Crazy and exciting things seem to always happen in the Divisional Round. Just look at last season. DIGGS! SIDELINE! TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE!

However, that doesn’t always happen every year. Compared to baseball and hockey, the unpredictability factor is fairly low. In 14 of the last 15 seasons, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Ben Roethlisberger have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. That’s great if you’re a fan of those quarterbacks, but not so much if you root for the other teams. Also, the first round is notorious for having a few poor games and mismatches. Last year was an outlier (although the Jaguars beat the Bills 10-3), but in 2016, the smallest losing deficit was 13. It truly depends on the year, but the small amount of playoff games backfires when the games are not exciting.

2. NHL

Do you want to talk about edge of your seat television? Look no further than the NHL playoffs. It is so hard to score a goal in hockey, so when it happens in the playoffs, it’s like winning the Super Bowl. The celebrations are epic. From the announcers to the fans in the arena to the millions watching at home, the atmosphere is electric. Players are diving in front of shots on every possession. Goalies are standing on their heads to make impossible saves. If you blink, you might miss the action.

By far, the NHL has the highest unpredictability factor out of the four major sports. Chalk doesn’t always win. Two years ago, the Nashville Predators made the Stanley Cup Final as an 8 seed. Two years ago, a 2 seed defeated a 3 seed in the finals. Three years ago, a 3 seed defeated a 2 seed in the finals. There’s no stopping a hot goalie in the playoffs. Did I also mention that the Stanley Cup is the best trophy in professional sports?

1. MLB

For me, nothing beats October baseball. After a long 162 game season, 10 teams duke it out over one month for a chance to win the World Series. Just like hockey, baseball has an exciting atmosphere. I was lucky enough to attend the Wild Card game last year between the Twins and Yankees, and I thought I was going deaf after the game. I’d argue that home field matters the most in baseball as opposed to the other major sports. In terms of format, it’s the only major sport to change the number of games in each round. The Division Series is best-of-five while the Championship Series and World Series are best-of-seven.

Baseball is truly a “never say die game” because 10 teams have come back from 0-2 deficits in the Division Series and one team has come back from a 0-3 deficit, with the latter never happening in the NBA. The length of the postseason is perfect. It takes a little over one month to crown a champion as opposed to the drawn-out NBA and NHL playoffs, which last two months. Plus, teams play on consecutive days, which doesn’t happen in the other major sports. Give me the eighth inning of a tie ball game with bases loaded, two outs over any playoff situation in the major sports.

Do you agree or disagree with the Best Playoffs: MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL rankings? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Can Bryce Harper Save Major League Baseball?

Last night, Bryce Harper defeated Kyle Schwarber with a few seconds to spare in the final round of the Home Run Derby. The atmosphere in Washington D.C. was electric as Harper became the 3rd player ever to win the Derby in his home ballpark. The whole contest was fun to watch as guys like Harper, Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins were hitting 400-foot bombs on a consistent basis. Overall, it was a fun night for baseball.

Last night reminded me of a common misconception that seems to be brought up every year. “Baseball is dead.” No, baseball is not dead. In fact, the MLB just set a record for revenue in 2017, surpassing the $10 billion milestone for the first time. Paid attendance is still hovering around $73 million, which is a decrease from previous years, but still a solid number. To his credit, Commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to appeal to the younger generation. Manfred wants to speed the game up by implementing a set number of mound visits and shorter time between innings. In hindsight, I’m all for speeding the game up, but at the end of the day, it’s baseball, not basketball or football. Games are still going to go over three hours. If the action on the field is exciting, the time won’t matter.

Although it’s not dead,  baseball is struggling to connect with “millennials.” The average age of a baseball fan is 57. That is not good for a sport that desperately wants to get younger. Baseball fans know that the sport is in good hands with its young stars such as Harper, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Kris Bryant. The problem lies in how to capitalize on these budding stars in order to reach a younger, more casual audience. In my opinion, this is where the MLB completely misses the mark.

The best player in the MLB is Mike Trout. What Trout is doing is historic. Trout is 26 years old with 2 MVP trophies and 6 (!!!) All-Star game starts including tonight’s game. However, if Mike Trout walks down the streets of New York City, how many people would recognize him? I’m being serious. Does the casual fan know what Mike Trout even looks like? Trout is the best player in the game and his jersey sales were not even in the top 7 last year. There are factors that have lead to Trout’s lack of star appeal. Baseball is typically a regional game, not national, so if Trout is not on ESPN or Fox, it will be hard for the casual fan to watch him play. His team, the Angels, have only been to the playoffs once with him in the league. Trout plays in LA so the time difference hinders the audience on the East Coast. Plus, Trout is very laid back and concentrates on baseball in the offseason instead of building up his public presence.

To bring this full circle, can Harper save baseball? Once again, baseball doesn’t need saving. It just needs to adjust it’s strategies when it comes to marketing its stars. If I’m the Commissioner, I’m showcasing stars like Harper, Judge, and Trout multiple times a month on national television no matter the records of their team. The NBA is star-driven meaning that the casual fan will watch LeBron James even though they may not know anyone else on the Cavs. The same needs to happen in baseball. Also, the MLB social’s media policy is arguably the worst of the major sports. Fans cannot post highlights or gifs from their own accounts without permission from the MLB. That’s baffling for a league that claims they want a younger audience, and yet enforce a strict policy on social media that is predominantly used by, you guessed it, young people.

Fans deserve to see the stars of baseball more often. It’s time for the MLB to make that happen.