By Mark Newman, MLB.com
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball released the 2017 postseason schedule on Tuesday — and it is similar to last year’s, except in one important way: The 113th World Series will begin Oct. 24 on FOX at the home of the league champion with the better regular-season record.
The standard playoff tiebreaker rules will apply should the two pennant winners finish with identical regular-season records. First is head-to-head winning percentage during the regular season, the higher winning percentage in intradivision games.
Gone are the days when World Series home-field advantage went to the league that won that year’s All-Star Game. It resulted in fun times in Miami at the Midsummer Classic, and now it means hypothetical fun and unrelenting focus on divisional opponents.
If anything, the new World Series home-field rule, a byproduct of the latest collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, adds even greater incentive for runaway division leaders like the Dodgers and Astros to keep pressing the gas pedal through September and leave no key tiebreaker scenario exposed.
Let’s just say those two teams, which each has the best record in its respective league, zoom through the postseason and meet in Game 1 of the World Series. As of now, the Series would open at Dodger Stadium. But the Dodgers and Astros have no Interleague meetings in 2017, and that means that if they finish with identical regular-season records and meet in the Fall Classic, Game 1 would be at Minute Maid Park, because Houston has a better intradivision record.
Now let’s say it’s a rematch of the historic 2016 World Series, which the Cubs clinched in Game 7 despite the Indians’ home-field advantage. Cubs fans would have loved those four home games instead of three, right? Cleveland (59-50) currently has a slight lead over Chicago (59-52), but they have no Interleague head-to-head meetings in 2017, so a tiebreaker would go to intradivision records. Right now, the Cubs would have that tiebreaker by a slight margin.
Until 2003, World Series home field alternated back and forth between leagues. There have been 90 World Series under the 2-3-2 format, and in only 46 of them did the team with the better regular-season record have the home-field edge. For fans hoping for a Dodgers-Astros matchup in late October, note that since 1999, the only time the teams with the best record in each league met in a World Series was 2013 (Red Sox over Cardinals). It’s a rarity.
The regular season will conclude again with all 15 games played concurrently starting at 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 1. Then any potentially necessary regular-season tiebreaker games would be telecast exclusively by ESPN on Monday, Oct. 2. The American League Wild Card Game will be on ESPN on Tuesday, Oct. 3, followed a day later by the National League Wild Card Game, televised exclusively by TBS.
Both AL Division Series will be scheduled to begin on Thursday, Oct. 5. The first full slate of Division Series games, featuring two NLDS openers and a pair of ALDS Game 2 contests, will be held on Friday, Oct. 6. Overall, the Division Series are scheduled to run from Thursday, Oct. 5, through the following Thursday, Oct. 12, with potential Game 5s on Wednesday, Oct. 11 (ALDS) and Thursday, Oct. 12 (NLDS).
TBS will cover all NLDS games, while FS1 or MLB Network will cover the ALDS.
The AL Championship Series, beginning on Friday, Oct. 13, will be telecast by FOX or FS1. The NLCS, set to start on Saturday, Oct. 14, will be telecast by TBS. A potential Game 7 of the ALCS is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21, while a potential Game 7 of the NLCS is set for Sunday, Oct. 22.
Game 1 of the 2017 World Series is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24, and the best-of-seven series will change sites for Game 3 on Friday, Oct. 27. If a Game 7 proves necessary once again, it is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 1. Scheduled days off are Oct. 26 and 30 (if a Game 6 is necessary).
FOX Sports will present live telecast coverage of the World Series for the 20th time.
Since the Wild Card Game was instituted in 2012, the annual total of actual postseason games played was 32 in ’12, 38 in ’13, 32 in ’14, 36 in ’15 and 35 in ’16.
All postseason games telecast on MLB Network, TBS, FS1, and FOX will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to the applicable network through a participating pay TV provider.
ESPN Radio will provide live national coverage of all 2017 postseason games, including the Wild Card Games and any necessary tiebreakers. MLB.com will have full coverage of all postseason action.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com