An Alternative to Baseball’s 10-Team Playoff Plan

The idea of expanding the baseball playoffs to 10 teams has made its rounds during the past year-plus. In late 2009, Commissioner Bud Selig formed a committee to discuss a number of issues, which included expanding the playoffs. Reports from those closed-door meetings made it sound as if expanded playoffs were a real possibility. Selig then made it seem like an inevitability in October, when he said that expanded playoffs could come in 2011. That won’t happen, of course, but yesterday Selig spoke again on the subject, and what he said has reignited the debate.

“The more we’ve talked about it, I think we’re moving inexorably to that,” Selig said of expanding the playoffs. There is certainly a case to be made for adding two teams to the playoff pool, but it creates more problems than it solves. There are alternatives that could provide similar effects while keeping the same number of teams in the playoffs every year.

Reasons for Playoff Expansion

It’s immediately clear why adding a playoff team would in many ways make baseball more interesting: One more spot means more teams in the hunt for October, which means greater interest during the stretch run in September. It could also create more interest during the rest of the season, since each team’s chances of making the playoffs becomes greater.

Adding a second wild card also increases the value of winning the division. The new playoff scheme will presumably pit the two wild-card teams against each other in the first round. This means that teams can’t simply play for the wild card, rather than the division, since there’s a penalty for winning the wild card. That, too, will generate more interest for the September races, since losing the division and still winning the wild card means something.

The greatest reason, of course, is money. The increased interest could raise ticket sales in late summer. An added round to the playoffs will almost certainly add revenue to one more team. It’s not difficult to see why ownership would favor it. Even if it’s just one more home game, that’s more money in their pockets. This doesn’t necessarily benefit fans, but it’s certainly high on the list of reasons why we’ll see expanded playoffs as early as 2012.

When the Solution Creates More Problems

While more playoff teams might create more interest, the addition of a playoff team to each league would also cause logistical problems. The first is pretty obvious: how would baseball go about the wild-card round? It’s not as easy as a one- or three-game series. It’s about who gets the advantage in a specific situation. Beyond that, it brings into question the idea of home-field advantage.

There seem to be two main ideas floating around. One is a one-game playoff, in the same style as Game 163. Winner take all. The other is a three-game series between the two wild-card teams. The logistical issues damn the former right from the start.

To insert a three-game series into the start of the playoffs, you’re laying off the other teams for at least three days. This is good, because they can set their rotations, thereby giving them a distinct advantage for winning their divisions. But it hurts, in that it breaks the rhythm for position players. Ask a player what he thinks about additional off days between the end of the season and the playoffs, and he’ll probably oppose it. But let’s set that aside, since that’s the least of the concerns.

How does MLB determine home-field advantage in that scenario? They can’t go 1-1-1, since that would be impossible in an East Coast-West Coast match-up. There’s just too much travel involved. Yet that’s the only way to do it fairly. You can’t have the disadvantaged team play the first game at home, or else you run into the same issues the LDS did at its inception. That is, the team with the advantage could head home facing elimination. That’s not too big an advantage. You also can’t really give the advantaged team the first two at home, because then the disadvantaged team gets the advantage in the decisive game. Even if MLB deemed this fair, there would have to be a travel day, meaning there would be at least a four-day layoff for the division winners. I suppose that’s the risk in every postseason series, but it seems odd coming right after finishing a 162-game marathon.

The best three-game series proposal I heard was a weekend set, with one game taking place on Saturday and a potential doubleheader on Sunday. That’s exciting, for sure. But it faces the same logistical issues as any other three-game series. In that scenario there’s no time for travel, so all games have to be played at one park. That’s a solution to the three-game scenarios posed above, but I think the disadvantaged team wouldn’t like that very much. There would probably be some kind of revenue split, but there’s also the chance that they make the playoffs and never play a home playoff game. That doesn’t sound like such an attractive proposition. (Though maybe the additional revenue via the gate split would help soothe the owners of the disadvantaged team.)

That leaves the one-game scenario as the easiest to execute. But how much do we really gain from what is essentially a Game 163 every year? A one-game series to determine anything doesn’t work well in baseball, a sport in which anything can happen on any given day. Game 163 is out of necessity. With the playoffs just two days away, there’s not much the league can do other than have a one-game playoff. But to schedule one? That seems like a bit much. It will surely create more excitement around the league, but there are downsides.

For instance, one of the stated reasons for implementing a second wild card is that it discourages a team from playing for the division if they have the wild card. But if they have the wild card at hand, then doesn’t that mean that the second wild-card team will, by definition, be considerably worse? Last year in the AL serves as an example. The Yankees didn’t have to fight for the division, since they had such a large wild-card lead. Essentially, New York could rest its players and take it easy in September, knowing the team would make the playoffs no matter what. I’m not sure if this is what happened, but it was the charge. In the 10-team system, the Red Sox would have won the second wild card. They finished six games worse than the Yankees in a 162-game season. They were clearly the worse team. Is a team resting its players in September because it can fall back on the wild card any worse than a team six games behind said wild card team making the LDS on one fluke game? I don’t think so. It just penalizes the Yankees for winning 95 games and rewards the Red Sox for finishing considerably worse.

(And I really wish that this didn’t involve the Yankees and the Red Sox, because of my own rooting interests. But I think the scenario is pretty clear. You could substitute any team names and make the above situation a hypothetical, and it would still be the same point. The narrative that teams can just fall back on the wild card and not try for the division is not a strong one, because it means, by definition, that the team is that much better than the rest of the league: i.e., that it doesn’t have to fight for the wild card itself. Or else it would be fighting for the division, too.)

The Alternative

It’s not fair to take down an idea without raising an alternative. Clearly, there are people who think that the current system is unfair. I don’t disagree with them. The unbalanced schedule and 3+1 division/wild-card format puts many teams at a disadvantage. This hits close to home, because of the AL East. With three powerhouses, the Blue Jays are often left behind. Last year Toronto might have been good enough to win one of the other divisions had it played, say, an AL-Central-heavy schedule. If part of the issue is raising excitement among more fan bases and keeping more teams in the race, there could be a better idea.

Logistically, eight playoff teams works the best. That makes for easy scheduling, since every team plays in every round. It means no team gets a bye, the value of which in baseball is questionable. It also rewards the teams that finished best over the 162-game season. During such a long stretch of games you can separate the deserving teams from the undeserving ones. That’s the beauty of baseball. Teams play every day, and they play enough games that the best teams emerge in the end. There shouldn’t be any issue taking only the four best and pitting them against one another.

The best way to do this is by eliminating divisions altogether. There is the NL and there is the AL. You can’t perfectly balance the schedule, because the numbers just don’t add up. In the AL you’d play every team 12.5 times, and in the NL you’d play them 10.8 times. But you can get a decent approximation of balance in one season, and have that fully balance over a few seasons. That eliminates the Blue Jays issue, where Toronto not only has to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox for one or two playoff spots, but also has to play those teams 36 times. It also creates a situation, again, where you’re better defining the best teams, rather than the best divisions.

This scenario would create plenty of excitement down the stretch, since six, eight and even 10 teams would be battling for those four spots. One, maybe two, might be locked up by that point. But that still leaves plenty of room for the final few spots. I can’t be so sure about this, since it’s something of an untested idea. But I think there would be plenty of teams contending for those final playoff spots. More teams, I think, than currently contend for the one wild card spot.

Getting Realistic

Much as I enjoy my no-divisions scenario, it’s not likely. It’s an alternative that takes advantage of baseball’s 162-game schedule and also preserves the optimal playoff format. But baseball just won’t do this. It’s pretty clearly going to include 10 playoff teams, so the idea now is to get it as right as possible.

If I had my druthers, I’d go with the three-game, two-day series. That’s intense, exciting, and it gives an advantage to the division winners without making them wait too long after the season before the playoffs. It is, unfortunately, a logistical nightmare that probably can’t work in the real world. In fact, any three-game series probably wouldn’t work out. Unless the No. 5 team in each league is willing to sacrifice all its home games, it would just take too long to complete.

That’s why, ultimately, baseball will go with a one-game playoff. The advantages might not be that great, but it would add another team to the fray, and it would add one intense, meaningful game to the playoff schedule. The No. 5 team still wouldn’t get a home game, but there’s no room to complain if it’s just a single game. This also seems to be the solution that most baseball pundits agree works the best. Given all the factors involved, it appears the most likely.

As Selig said yesterday, “There’s a myriad of details to work out” with adding another playoff team. That’s always going to be the case when there are an uneven number of teams making the playoffs. While I think there are better solutions to create a fairer environment, baseball likely will not consider them. After all, they have us hooked. They want something that’s most compelling for the casual fans whose attention they don’t have 100% of the time. The one-game playoff makes the most sense in that way, in terms of engagement and logistics. They might surprise me and go with something a bit more creative, but chances are that in 2012 more fan bases will be excited at the prospect of making the playoffs.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

135 Responses to “An Alternative to Baseball’s 10-Team Playoff Plan”

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  1. Baron Samedi says:

    As a Blue Jays fan, I am 100% in favour of no divisions and as balanced a schedule as possible.

    Gotta love those third order wins.

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  2. steve says:

    Steal from the Champions League in Soccer. Have a 2 game series. Ties are broken by the team that scored the most runs in the two games, followed by whoever scored the most runs on the road, further ties would be determined by extra-innings.

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    • Jacob says:

      the team that scores the most runs is a bad idea. if you’re the home team and leading after 8.5 innings you would still have to play the bottom of the 9th. i’m generally opposed to people posting mean things on the internet but this idea is so against baseball that it deserves mean things to be said about the author.

      why not have a home run derby, stolen base or fastball pitching competition.

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      • Not to mention that the idea is based off of soccer! It’s cross-country with a ball that never finds its way into the goal. (BTW, no offense to you, Steve, I just loathe soccer)

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      • Kevin says:

        But a playoff system based off of American football is above criticism?

        ps-Soccer jokes about no goals are as funny as “baseball players spit a lot and scratch their junk a lot” jokes.

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      • Bryz says:

        “i’m generally opposed to people posting mean things on the internet but this idea is so against baseball that it deserves mean things to be said about the author.”

        While Steve’s ideas may be “against baseball,” your suggested alternatives are against all sports. No one that is affiliated with a team is going to want that.

        “But what about shootouts in hockey?” Here’s my justification for that. In hockey, the only way you can score is by putting the puck into the net. In baseball, there are many ways to score. Your suggestions are like suggesting the NBA adopts a three-point contest to decide tie games.

        I don’t get why people keep suggesting things like these.

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      • cktai says:

        There is only one way to score in baseball and that is by touching home plate without being out.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Bryz does not seem to get sarcasm.

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    • Jessy S. says:

      Actually that would be the way to go.

      Play to a final in both games even if it requires extra innings, especailly if it decides the series.

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      • micah says:

        And then the team that lost Game 1 by 2 and is leading Game 2 by 1 in the 9th has to intentionally give up a run in order to have a shot at the series? No thanks.

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  3. Craig says:

    I like the one-game playoff idea too. As a Twins fan I have seen a couple of Game 163s in the last few years and they are tremendously exciting.

    If you add more teams to the playoffs, how about finding a way to keep the number of games played about the same? I favor keeping the 5-game series of the divisional round, but what if instead of “first to 4″ in the LCS and WS you did a “first to 4″ or “3 ahead” format? That would shorten the drudgery of sweeps. So if a team was up 3 games to none on their opponent, that’s it, the series is over. Just a thought.

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    • JCA says:

      2004 ALCS.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      my problem is that, if you look at last year, a one game playoff in the AL would be completely unfair. Sure one game to decide it all between the Yankees and Red Sox is hugely exciting, but the Yankees finished 6 games (that’s huge) ahead of the Sox and were a much better team. Now you want to eliminate them based on one game, where one single play can change the entire season worth of play that proved one was the better team? that is incredibly unfair and penalizes the Yankees for winning 95 games, while rewarding the Red Sox’s 89 win season.

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      • Patrick Walz says:

        I don’t think that anything can be ‘unfair’ to a team that didn’t win the division. It is gravy that you made the playoffs at all. Want to avoid an unfair 1-game playoff, win your division.

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      • Drugs Delaney says:

        I agree. Also, if a 7-game playoff series is a “crapshoot”, what do we call a 3-game series or single-game elimination series? I think it cheapens a long, 162-game season to have a single game decide who makes the post-season.

        The playoffs should include only the best teams, not teams that won their division. The divisional system is inherently biased because there are tougher and weaker divisions. Teams playing in tougher divisions already start the season at a disadvantage.

        Looking at the last 10 seasons (from 2001-2010), only two Wild Card teams have won fewer than 90 games: the ’05 Astros (89) and the ’06 Dodgers (88). Over those ten years, 4 NL division winners have finished with 85 or fewer wins. The fewest wins for an AL Wild Card team in that period is 94 games (’07 Yankees). Only once was a Wild Card team the 4th best record: the ’02 Giants, a 95-game winning team.

        The average wins for the NL Wild Card from 2001-2010 is 91 wins. The average number of wins for the weakest NL division winner over the same period is 88 wins. The gap is even bigger in the AL. The weakest AL division winner has averaged 91.5 games, compared to 96.3 wins for the AL Wild Card.

        The problem with the current system isn’t the Wil Card; it’s weak division winners.

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  4. voxpoptart says:

    Here’s a simple solution to the issue of teams supposedly not trying hard enough at the end of the year: whenever two teams meet in the playoffs, the team with a better record gets a free run. If their record is three games better, two free runs (one each in game one and game two); if five games better, three free runs (one each in the first three games). When the 2001 Seattle Mariners played the 2001 New York Yankees, after finishing 21 games ahead, they’d’ve gotten eleven extra runs: two each for the first four games, one each for the last three.

    I checked that particular result just now, btw: Games 2 and 3 are now both won by Seattle, and games 1 and 4 go to extra innings. (Game 5, assuming it was still reached, would remain a Yankee blowout). Do this, and whether you have 8, 10, or even 12 teams, the chances of the best regular-season team emerging a playoff winner go up considerably. And so does the motive to earn that record.

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  5. Telo says:

    Keep the division set up as is, but implement a football setup:

    Division winners get byes. the next three best records in the AL/NL make the playoffs. The worst division winner gets tossed into the mix. The top 2 division winners take a portion of the overall first round gate so they don’t lose revenue on the bye. More games, more teams, minimal change required.

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    • joser says:

      What’s your basis for thinking byes are beneficial and so should be assigned to the teams with the best records? A lot of baseball players seem to think time off at the end of the season is actually detrimental to their team’s postseason performance. (On the other hand, if you’re proposing this as a sneaky way to handicap the Yankees, forget I said anything)

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    • Kevin says:

      Can’t we just stick with a baseball setup, since this is baseball? The football setup works for football, because it ws designed with football in mind. It incentivizes in ways that make sense for football. Time off is hugely helpful for most football teams/players. One game is often a good indicator of which team is better. Neither of those hold true for baseball…so why build a playoff system around those ideas?
      This is like putting cream in your beer, just because it tastes so good in your coffee.

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      • Garrett says:

        That isn’t true. Even 16 fails. All the intelligentsia considered the Chargers one of the elite teams, yet they never made the playoffs.

        All system have intrinsic weaknesses flaws. Rebalancing divisions would be the most beneficial option at this point.

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  6. Telo says:

    Any situation where teams are playing 1 or 3 game playoff series in baseball is horrible. It’s a necessity in dead ties as it stands right now, because the schedule is so rigid. But to actually plan a 1/2/3 game series is a horrible, horrible way to end a 162 game season, considering how much luck is involved in winning on a day to day basis. As is it, 5 game DS are too short.

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    • Mike H says:

      All it does is give one extra team a shot at getting in, while giving the normal wild card team a distinct disadvantage from the division winners. Yes, the better team will not always win because of SSS, but that’s why we play the games instead of just choosing the winner based on WAR every year. I’m all about using all our saber knowledge to project and evaluate performance, but at the end of the day, It comes down to who executes. That’s what makes the game exciting; the fact that either team has a chance to win.

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      • Telo says:

        Yes and no. It give an extra team a shot of getting in, and gives the next best deserving team a wicked chance at getting sent home far too early. Ya know? By creating a 5th spot, you greatly devalued the 4th spot, when in reality, they should have a fairer chance of advancing.

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      • Los says:

        By creating a second spot, you devalue the first even more-so…just saying.

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    • BJsWorld says:

      My thoughts exactly. Even a 7 game series is woefully inadequate to evaluate which team is better. A one game series is a toss of the coin.

      3 games should be the absolute minimum. I’d even go for 16 team playoff system. Round 1 would pit 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5. 5 games, the first 3 are home with the higher ranked team gaining the advantage. You could play games 1-3 in three consecutive days, off day for travel, game 4 at the lower seed. If a game 5 is required you have a travel day back to the home higher seed.

      That’s 7 days and you would have round 1 decided. The higher ranked team has a huge advantage by playing the vast majority of their games at home. Use the same format for round 2. Another 5 games with the same road/home split. Now you are 15 days or so in the post-season. For the LCS and WS you move back to a traditional 7 game series.

      I don’t think this would add much time vs the current schedule with how many off days/travel days they use. It expands playoffs to give other deserving teams a shot (virtually eliminating the argument that playing in the AL East is patently unfair since every team in the AL East make it in). Finally – it makes tons of money for baseball as their are more games. Probably wrecks the TV schedule a bit but that’s a small trade off for expanding the system.

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      • Kevin says:

        Since the folks who clamour about these sorts of changes only ever think back to last season when coming with a new system…
        Imagine the proposed playoff system last year. Yankees finished 6 games better than Sox. They were in the same division playing the exact same schedule. If the Sox when a one game playoff, they haven’t made up that difference. How are they a better team? How is this a fair (Selig’s word) system. I hate the Yankees and would take perverse joy in such a shafting in the Bronx…but it’s a shafting anyway you look at it.

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    • MalteseFalcon says:

      Completely agree Telo. I’m all for adding a 5th playoff team in each league, but there seems to be no feasible way of doing it. Eliminating divisions altogether IMO is the best way to do this, but as the author correctly pointed out, it will never happen. I’ve been using last years example as to why a 1 game playoff to determine who plays the division winners, and I’m glad the author used it as well. Imagine the Red Sox and the Yanks were pitted in the 1 game playoff last year. Yanks beat them by 6 games in the standings over the course of a 162 game season. Unless you’re my 2007 NY Mets, it usually takes a team 25+ games to make up 6 games in the standings. This could all be wiped out easily with a Sox win in the playoff game setting them up with a chance to advance, while the clearly better Yanks team is sent home. Telo is 100% correct. You are completely devaluing the 4th best team (1st WC).

      The next best approach would be the best of 3 series, but again, as the author astutely points out, it would be a logistical nightmare. Very curious to see how Bud and company approaches this. Something needs to be done though. Baseball is my favorite sport of the 4 main prof sports, and I feel as if their playoffs are BY FAR the least exciting.

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      • joe says:

        It gets even worse in both leagues last year one of the wildcard teams would be cruising with no shot at the division and setting up the rotation (the Braves and the RedSox) while teams in front of them are burning their top starters to win the division.

        You then could have the Rays or Yanks going into the one game playoff with their 3rd or 4th best starter, facing the opposing ace of a team they finished 5+ games ahead of. In the NL the records were closer but you have SF and SD burning their top starters trying to win the division while Atlanta has their ace lined up.

        Even a 3 game series might not fix that issue

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      • Dan says:

        One of the problems with eliminating divisions would be retaining excitement in smaller markets.

        One of the results (“advantages” in my opinion) of divisions is that it allows smaller markets to compete when they play their cards right, and even make the playofss on occasion. The prospect of beating out the other small or medium market teams in your division is a lot easier than beating out all the other small or medium market teams for the last couple spots in your league. If divisions were eliminated, it would make the need for a salary cap much more pressing.

        The first thing we need is a salary cap, though I realize that would be a major hurdle within the league and the CBA.

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  7. Matt says:

    They could do the 3-game playoff series at a neutral site, over a single weekend, with both leagues playing their series’ in the same place. That would probably be enough high intensity baseball to make a national event out of the affair, that could be scheduled enough in advance to be kind of like the Super Bowl (in that parties and corporate events could be pre-planned).

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    • Ian R. says:

      It’s tough to compare a contest between the #4 and #5 teams in each league to the Super Bowl, but I still like the idea.

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    • Jon says:

      Considering the small number of major markets and their teams’ high likelihood of making the postseason, you could also end up with “neutral” sites that unfairly benefit one team over the other–and not necessarily the team that earned it by finishing ahead.

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  8. Ryan says:

    I love the idea of dumping divisions, though I know it’s not going to happen. I also think that we need to even up the AL and NL. The discrepancy between the AL West and NL Central has always been absurd to me, and I say that as a staunch Mariners fan.

    No divisions and 15 teams per league would be great. Top 4 teams from each league go to the playoffs. One can dream.

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    • Jacob says:

      agreed. but first equalize the DH rules.

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    • joser says:

      As a staunch Mariners fan, have you considered what a league with no divisions and a balanced schedule would do to total team travel? The team that would be hurt the worst by that is your Mariners.

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      • Guy says:

        I think the travel stays the same, same sort of schedule but just eliminate top teams from each division – instead it’s top four teams from each league. The Blue Jays would still have to play the Yankees and Red Sox as much, but their 85 wins have a much better chance of getting them to the playoffs

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      • joser says:

        If you’re saying that we’d keep the same unbalanced “divisional” schedule but eliminate the actual divisions, and just advance the top four (or five) teams in each league into the postseason, then yes I agree with you — I’ve mused the same thing myself. But I just don’t think it would fly with a large chunk of the fanbase or (more importantly) the vested interests in baseball itself (MLBPA, the owners, etc).

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    • jrogers says:

      15 teams per league also means there has to be an interleague matchup every single series of the season.

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      • Sophist says:

        Contract 2 teams or add 2.

        Hello, Portland. Durham Bulls: welcome to the AL.

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      • gentleman jim says:

        Add two teams and dilute talent even further, no thanks. Not to mention adding teams and having to re-configure the “big map.” That isn’t gonna happen.

        Contracting two teams would be better at adding talent, but again, is not going to happen.

        But as stated in the article, if I’m going to say you’re wrong, I should have an alternative. Maybe going back to two divisions per league could work without creating a logistical nightmare. Keep 14 in AL and 16 in the NL. Four teams per league make the playoffs. Whoever wins each division is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and the remaining Wild Card spots go to the next two best records, regardless of division.

        …Or we can just keep the current system

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      • Dan says:

        Would that be such a bad thing?

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  9. Jacob says:

    the best scenario. get rid of leagues and contract 2 teams. you play each team 3 games at home and 3 on the road.
    28 teams = 27 opponents * 6 games each = 162 games.

    this idea was first posted by someone else, perhaps last year.

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    • Jacob says:

      or go to 168 game schedule and play each team at home/on the road once each.

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      • Jacob says:

        although in reality you don’t want to travel on a weekend so there are some logistical problems here as well.

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    • Jon says:

      Yeah, let’s do away with that overabundance of match-ups between current & historic rivalries generating all that annoying revenue and surplus fan interest.

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  10. Jacob says:

    i also like the college world series where the top seed has to win once, but the bottom seed has to win twice; although that is a double elimination tournament so it’s not so practical.
    Perhaps a 0-3 game regular season lead gets you home field advantage and a 3.5+ game regular season lead gives you a 1 game advantage in the best of 3 playoffs. or in other words the playoffs is a best of two, with ties going to the higher seed.

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  11. Matt says:

    Since this seems to be inevitable, why not have a three-game series between the wild cards at the home park of the WC with the better record? That way, there’s a small bit of incentive to earn instead of cruising down the stretch (think Yankees and Rays last year, when they both knew they were in) and the last team in, so to speak, will have to really earn their way into the dance by taking two of three in hostile territory. Then, two more games on the road as usual for the winner against the appropriate division winner.

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  12. Daniel says:

    For as much as we talk about giving more teams a shot, I think one of the best things about this 1 game series is the advantage it gives the division winners. Remember, a wild card team doesn’t deserve to be on equal ground as a division winner given that the only thing we ask of teams is that they win their division; something a wild card team has inherently failed to do. The new wild card playoff means those those two teams have to use their #1 starters and go into the next round with their #2. I love the thought of giving another team a shot while at the same time giving division winners their due.

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    • Lukehart80 says:

      But the wildcard sometimes has the second best record in the league and would have won either of the other divisions, so it’s not always the fourth best team hindered, it’s often the second or third best team. I don’t think we’re going back to two divisions per league and I’m almost certain we’re not going to lose divisions entirely. Any plan that involves either of those suggestions is something of a non-starter. I think the playoff system is okay as it is, it’s the imbalance of the playing field for the regular season (due largely to economics) that’s in need of repairs.

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      • Ian R. says:

        Agreed. If there’s a team like the ’06 Cardinals that sneaks in by winning a weak division, make THEM play in the one-game playoff. Not the WC.

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  13. jaywrong says:

    i don’t understand why in a 3 game scenario, you just have all 3 games at the wild cards highest winning team’s home… i mean, we say that’s not fair, but it isn’t supposed to be if the other team did better during the regular season.

    seems simple enough. (not that i am condoning the expansion of playoffs, but when we speak of fairness in the playoffs, there shouldn’t be any. The higher the seed, the more advantages that team should have.)

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  14. JoeyO says:

    Uh, isnt there a simpler answer to all this 3-game scenario mess?

    Have the two WildCards play their 3 games at the stadium they will be playing in after their series is over. It would mean there wouldnt need to be a day-off after their 3 game series before their next series begins, plus ensure that it is a neutral site to play the games – plus it would give the true best team in the league a bit of a financial boost for being that club.

    Take last years teams for instance

    Round 1 (ALWC)
    Yankees v RedSox in TB for 3 (as the Rays were the top team in the AL. Teams flip coins for who gets BattingOrder advantage, with it going X-O-X)

    Round 2 (ALDS)
    (ALWC winner) v Rays (starting in TB as they won a Div. Starts 3 days after 1st ALWC game)
    Twins v Rangers (staring in Minn)

    Round 1(NLWC)
    Braves v Padres in Philly (best NL team)

    Round 2
    NLWC Winner v Phillies (Starts 3 days after 1st NLWC game in Phi)
    Reds v Giants (starting in SF)

    Who would have grounds to complain? And we will finally see the teams facing the proper opponents you would expect instead of this WC vs Non-Division team nonsense we currently have

    And because the Round 2 game between the 2nd & 3rd placed DivWinners wont rest on the outcome of the Round 1 games, they could actually start anytime they wanted really (most likely the day of a scheduled R1 Game 3) – it means only a day or two max are lost despite adding an extra series in.

    Makes sense to me at least…

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    • joser says:

      This actually is a better proposal than just about anything else I’ve seen. The one problem is this: how many fans in Tampa Bay are going to turn out to watch the Yankees play the Red Sox at the Trop? Particularly compared to the numbers that you’d see for a playoff series between those two teams in either Boston or NY. Of course, there happen to be a lot of Red Sox and Yanlees fans in Florida, but that just leads us to look at the NL side: how many fans are going to attend a playoff series between the Braves and Padres… in Philly?

      Even if the playing teams split the gate after the hosting team extracted its expenses, it’s not going to amount to much. And money is why any of this is being contemplated, after all.

      No, I think you have to have a three-game series with all three games played at the home park of whichever WC team had the best record. Doing it over a weekend, with a game Saturday and a morning game Sunday, with the potential for a tie-breaker double-header game Sunday afternoon, would be the most fun but extremely difficult logistically. Realistically, having a normal 3 game series at the home park of the best WC team is probably the right way to go.

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      • JoeyO says:

        It will sell out, guaranteed. Its playoff baseball, it will always sell out. Plus its the team that the HomeCity will be facing in the next round – its not like they dont have a vesting interest…

        But shoot, the Indians/Angels games in Mil averaged about 18K per game (just short of half capacity) for random regular season games played Tues-Thurs in a neutral city on one-day notice. That 18K per is extremely similar to the numbers the Brewers were drawing on mid-week games where big promotions weren’t offered.

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      • williams .482 says:

        Sell out at the Trop? Really?

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      • Scott says:

        You’re kidding, right? The Yankees’ spring training site is in Tampa, across the bridge from St. Petersburg. The Red Sox’s spring training is 2 hours south in Ft. Myers. Those fans turn out in droves in the spring, not to mention the sheer numbers of transplants living in Florida from the Northeast. They would love the chance to root for their team in a place like St. Pete, even if they were relegated to a wild card matchup.

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      • joser says:

        Right, which is why I said

        Of course, there happen to be a lot of Red Sox and Yanlees fans in Florida, but that just leads us to look at the NL side: how many fans are going to attend a playoff series between the Braves and Padres… in Philly?

        But I guess you stopped reading once I got to Yankees and Red Sox in Florida. Sorry about that. Think about every other possible permutation that doesn’t involve that serendipitous combination. The Rays and A’s in Toronto. The Padres and Marlins in Milwaukee. Etc

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    • UnG says:

      Great idea. I was going to suggest a neutral site, but having it at the next location is even better.

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    • Kevin says:

      You’re forgetting that the owners only care about “fairness” when it also brings along gate/concessions money.
      Postseason “fairness” is just the Trojan horse more revenue is being delivered in. This proposal will never be accepted. I’m also not sure I really like the idea of neutral crowds at playoff baseball games. At least 25% of the joyous tension from watching on TV is seeing the faces of fans who actually give a crap.

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  15. glassSheets says:

    I understand in theory why it makes sense to punish the wild card team. But I don’t really want to punish the wild card if it has a better record than a division winner.

    Yankees win the East and Red Sox win the wild card with 96 and 95 wins respectively, Twins win the central with 90 wins. Red Sox play ing the 88 win Tigers once to determine who plays the Twins in the next round doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Red Sox already won more games in a better division and are disadvantaged.

    And I think this as a Central division fan loathing the Red Sox Yankees presence all over ESPN and MLB Network.

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    • glassSheets says:

      Unless now the wild card is able to play the Division winner from it’s own division, then the Red Sox get to play disadvantaged at New York instead of disadvantaged at Minnesota. Even worse.

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  16. Schu says:

    Call me an uber-cynic… but doesn’t this open up the possibility of a greedy owner hinting for his team to tank a few games so they clinch the wild card and the extra three games of revenue?

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  17. Logic says:

    I don’t see the need for this at all. Are we really changing how the league works because one division has had 2 good teams lately?

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  18. Bryan says:

    I just spent way too much time going through the standings since 1995, and found that 11 teams that finished with the second best record in the league (but didn’t win their division) would be susceptible to playing this Wild Card round game. Those teams:

    1997 Yankees
    1997 Marlins
    1998 Red Sox
    2001 Athletics
    2001 Cardinals
    2004 Red Sox
    2005 Red Sox
    2006 Dodgers
    2007 Rockies
    2007 Padres
    2010 Yankees

    In addition, even if the team with the second best record won that one-game playoff, it looks like they would be playing the best division winner in the Divisional Series, setting up a scenario where the two best teams in the league are playing each other, but not for the pennant and a chance at the World Series.

    In 2001 the A’s finished 17 games ahead of the Twins, but if this new format were in place, they would have to beat them in a one-game playoff and then beat the 116-win Mariners in the division series just to get to the ALCS. This format just doesn’t make any sense.

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    • Jake R. says:

      I figured I’d comb through the standings to present the number of times where the wild card team had the worst record in their league (I excluded the many years where the wild card team and the worst division winner finished with the same record.

      2004 Astros
      2002 Giants
      2000 Mets
      1999 Red Sox
      1998 Cubs
      1996 Orioles
      1995 Rockies

      You’ll notice that this list is a lot shorter than Bryan’s list of the wild card team’s with the second best record in their league.

      Another way of looking at this. Out of 32 wild card teams over 16 seasons, the wild card team has been the second best team in their league 34% of the time. It has been the worst team 22% of the time.

      Once again, I will ask, why are people trying to go out of their way to create a new playoff structure that puts the wild card team at a competitive disadvantage?

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      • nicholus.h says:

        Then why not just have the two playoff teams with the worst records play the one-game playoff? Clearly, winning the division doesn’t mean a whole lot if it turns out the wild card team is better 34% of the time…

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  19. joe says:

    A three game series probably means at least 4 off-days (barring a double header in the playoffs)….I don’t see any way the wildcard series could start the day after the reg season, as the league would need to keep an extra day to break reg season ties. So 4 days minimum, and that assume no travel days whatsoever and hopefully no weather issues.

    The other significant unintended consequence… One wildcard team (potentially with the worst record) has things locked up and with no shot at the division – they lineup the rotation, rest some regulars and get the bullpen ready. The 2nd wildcard team is desperately trying to win the division and burns their top 2 pitcher, taxes the bullpen and comes up short(or they win and the division leaded ends up a WC with their rotation spent)… They now go into the wildcard series at a distinct disadvantage and they could have the better record.

    This scenario happens in probably both the AL and NL last year… TB and NY duke it out the final weekend burning their top starters, potentially taxing the bullpens and the loser ends up facing Boston who has everything lined up and everyone rested, and now have a distinct advantage despite finishing more than 5 games behind these other teams. The Braves were in a similar situation last year where they would have had a wild card locked up, but would have no incentive to win down the stretch (they couldn’t catch the division leading Phils) and would likely have lined up their rotation and watched their wildcard opponent burn their best pitchers on the last few days of the regular season trying to win the NL West

    This “it creates more drama” philsophy might be true, but it also could mean less drama… think of the 3 way race in the NL last year for 2 spots. People hold up the Ray/Yanks not trying to win the division, but the new format means the Braves are disincentived over the last weekend and not having to battle it out for their own playoff spot.

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    • shamus mcfitzy says:

      well I just don’t think teams would try that hard to win the division in instances like that. I understand it’s a disadvantage to have to play an extra round, but it’s not such a big disadvantage that last year the Yankees would’ve possibly put themselves in a situation where Hughes and/or Burnett would have to outduel Lester and/or Buchholz. I think if the 2 wildcard spots were wrapped up you would see the better wildcard team strategically deciding whether they would go for the division or not.

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  20. RiverAce says:

    Bryan excellent. Good research and good points. No combined run total. No byes for any teams.
    The only thing that’s wrong with baseball playoffs is the 5 game series in the first round.
    Make the first round 7 games, eliminate all the days off in between games (to accomodate the calendar), and PRESTO! more revenue from the potential extra 2 games in the first round. Then we don’t have to talk about silly stupid stuff like a forced one game playoff after a 162 game season.

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  21. Tasintango says:

    There is no fair way to do the playoffs, new format or old. It doesn’t work out fair, which is probably why I lose interest after the last game of the 162 game season.

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  22. AdamS says:

    I know the owners would never approve it, but getting rid of 10 or so regular season games would probably be good for the playoffs. Then we could go to 9 game world series and 7 game league championship and even a 7 game division series.

    I actually like the 3 game scenario where the wild card with the better record gets all 3 games at home. As the post above from Bryan points out, it really is punishing the better wild card team, but if they”re going to do it, they should give them home field.

    Of course, if it were up to me, I think I would rather just have the 8 team playoffs.

    I actually wish the Selig and his little committee tried to implement the DH in the NL. I never thought I would say this, since growing up I didn’t like the DH, but I think it does make for a better game, since you don’t have to have an awful hitter in the lineup everyday.

    I thought one way to implement it in the NL would be to limit the amount of plate appearances a player could have at the DH, something like 300 or so. That way you would rotate the players instead of having just one guy as the primary DH

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  23. DominicanRepublican says:

    The league seems to be discussing whether it should be a 1-game playoff or a 3-game playoff, but 1 game is too short and I think most think that 3 is too long. My suggestion: Why not make it a 2-game playoff? No, there’d be no idiotic aggregate scoring system (which works well for soccer but is not practical for the way baseball is played). The higher seeded team would come into the series with an automatic 1-game lead in a best-of-three format. So the higher seeded team only needs to win one of the two games to get to the next round. The lower seeded team would have to win BOTH games to get to the next round.

    This insures that A) There is a til-the-end battle to win each division because no one wants to have to be part of that playoff or have to use up their staff aces before they have to; B) it gives the higher seeded wild card team a distinct advantage in making it over the lower-ranked wild card play-in team so that there is a very real incentive in being the league’s #4 seed over #5 which, again, creates more exciting baseball in the last couple of weeks of the regular season; C) it allows a non-AL East team the chance to win the AL wild card.

    Basically, it gives a very real advantage in being the #3 seed over #4, #4 over #5, and #5 over #6 instead of the current format in which most teams really don’t care all that much as long as they’re #4.

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    • Jeff says:

      This is by far my favorite suggestion, and is how college baseball works. It also solves the problem of two teams competing for the division, and what happens to the one that loses out.

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    • Dan says:

      This is not my preferred playoff reform, but of what is currently in bounds, I really like it. Great idea.

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  24. Sanonymous says:

    I do not see the problem with a one game, WC vs. WC playoff. It sounds cynical, but win your division and you don’t have to worry. We say that would make it difficult on the better wild card team- but isn’t it not infrequently that you hear that they have it too easy now, and the teams who win their division don’t have a distinct advantage? And come on. It’s FUN! One game, winner-take-all. You can’t tell you wouldn’t watch that, for exactly the reasons listed above- anything can happen. Stats may have good predictive and analytical value, but they shouldn’t be used to determine playoffs or champions or anything of that nature. That’s what on-field execution is for.

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    • Bryan says:

      I think most people agree that championships and playoff berths should be won on the field, just that it makes more sense to have them be the outcome of 162 games instead of one.

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    • Will says:

      But again, the divisions are RARELY equal. The Al West, for example, only has four teams.

      All of this “win your damn division” talk is silly. And basically, any of these scenarios that doesn’t seed based on wins, not dv/wc breakdowns, is going to be flawed.

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  25. AJS says:

    “There seem to be two main ideas floating around. One is a one-game playoff, in the same style as Game 163. Winner take all. The other is a three-game series between the two wild-card teams. The logistical issues damn the former right from the start.”

    I think you mean “the latter” in this instance.

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  26. Mark says:

    What if you had the two worst playoff teams (by record) play a 1-game playoff to determine who advances? At worst, you have the 4th best team in the league get the shaft, which doesn’t bother me as much because this is usually a 88-90 win team anyway.

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  27. Jake R. says:

    A play-in game or short series for two teams with potentially significantly different regular season performances would simultaneously cheapen both the regular season and the playoffs. A better way to add to the playoffs, that enhances rather than detracts from the integrity of the competition, is to expand the Division Series round to 7 games.

    I am in favor of eliminating divisions and balancing the schedule, but it is unrealistic at this point. But, while the status quo is less than ideal, expanding the playoffs is a step in the wrong direction rather than in the right one.

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  28. MikeS says:

    I think there is another problem that I haven’t heard mentioned. Won loss records tend to cluster in a fairly bell shaped curve. The more playoff teams you allow in, the closer you get to that big peak in the middle and the more likely that you will need a game 163 to determine who the actual playoff teams are. We already see this with more one game playoffs in the current format than under the old two division/four team format. The risk of three way ties for that last spot increases which delays the playoffs even further, increases the layoffs and threatens bad weather in the upper midwest and northeast. Not to mention the travel. What if Tampa and Oakland tie, but Oakland has the home field and Boston is the other WC? What if there is a three way tie between two teams on one coast and one on the other? It’s exciting in theory but a potential scheduling and travel nightmare.

    The only alternative I can think of is to say there are no game 163′s and use tie breakers.

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  29. Bryan says:

    Thanks to baseball-reference’s standings pages, I’ve determined there was an average of a four game difference in the standings between the best and second-best non-division winners from 1995 and 2010.

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  30. futant462 says:

    Ok, Radical idea time.
    1 18 inning game played over 2 days. 9 Innings each day. Combined scored of all 18 innings brings home the bacon. Would get to see some crazy pitching strategies come in to play. Travel to the “home” team on the 2nd day. Keeps it short without being over in 1 traditional game.
    Sure it’s got problems, but it would be pretty fascinating. Down 7-1 in the 2nd inning? No problem 16 more to go!

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    • Kevin says:

      Why oh why, would you choose to work toward crowning the champion of anything by having teams participate in a radically different game?

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    • DominicanRepublican says:

      That makes it a completely different game. This is baseball. Let’s keep it that way.

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    • fredsbank says:

      or, we could have every player play 3 rounds of 18-hole golf, and the team with the best scores immediately goes to the world series, while the loser is the marching band at the next presidential inauguration….

      for all the sense your idea makes

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  31. lex logan says:

    Team A has the best record in the league. Teams B & C won their divisions. Teams D & E are the wild cards. Have a three game series between D & E; before it finishes B & C start their five game series. Winner of D & E plays A in a FOUR game series; the wild card team must win 3 or 4, Team A just needs a split.

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    • DominicanRepublican says:

      If the Red Sox are Team A and the Yankees and Rays are teams D and E, you would have an AL East matchup in the first round. In-division matchups should be reserved for the ALCS/NLCS, otherwise the CS becomes somewhat anticlimactic.

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  32. Jimbo says:

    Two divisions in each league…four total, each having either 7 or 8 teams. (7 vs 8 isn’t as big a deal as 4 vs 6.)

    Each league would have 2 division winners and three wild card teams. The DW and top-seeded wild card get a weekend off while the lower two teams play a Saturday doubleheader and Sunday matinee. All would be home games for the #2 wildcard team.

    Division winners get home field advantage of course.

    The #3 wildcard team might not get a home game, but the point is they have a CHANCE at home playoff games in round 2. The alternative is to be sitting at home…so any ‘unfairness’ doesn’t evoke empathy.

    Three teams in each division that have a weekend ‘bye’ would be off the same amount of time as the allstar break. Do hitters come back from that and struggle traditionally??

    The key is that even among the 5 playoff teams (per league) ALL of the seeds matter:
    - Top division winner gets the 4/5 winner…which will likely be a tired team that already used their best pitchers.
    - Second division winner gets a ‘rested’ wildcard team. Still home field, but also less attractive of a matchup.
    - #1 wildcard team doesn’t have the risk of an extra series, so far more incentive to finish ahead of the other WC’s.
    - #2 wildcard has to play extra games, but gets 3 at home and has to win 2.
    - #3 wildcard has a chance, and that’s about it.

    Couple twists?
    1. Re-seed every round, based on overall record, but home field advantage is based on the head-to-head record between the two teams. Makes in-season games matter all the more, and could put a lot of focus on late-season series.
    2. Make the round of 4 interleague! With two teams left from each league, re-seed all four and if the Dodgers face the Angels for a shot at the World Series, I have to think that’s good for baseball and not all that crazy given interleague play is now a fixture in the schedule.

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  33. Brian says:

    Not exactly a short-term solution, but I think baseball needs to expand two more teams in the AL and go to either four four-team divisions or two eight-team divisions

    Four team divisions still gives baseball two full rounds of playoffs and, quite obviously, puts the emphasis on winning the division as it’s the only way to make the playoffs.

    With two eight-team divisions I would like to see some scenario whereby the two wild card teams are at a significant disadvantage in the playoffs.

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  34. phoenix2042 says:

    what it comes down to is this: does the MLB want to make the playoff system more exciting or more fair? because adding another team will be exciting for that extra team or two that stays in the playoff hunt. and that one game playoff will be an incredibly exciting game. but that one game playoff will be criminally unfair if a team is one team is obviously better (by 4+ games in the regular season) and loses because anything can happen in any one game. so in this situation, late season baseball becomes much more exciting at the expense of fairness. or you can shorten the regular season to allow another legitimate round to the playoffs for the wild card teams, which will cost all the owners money in ticket sales (and so will never happen), but at least it will be more fair.

    so the choices are: lucrative to the owners and more exciting, but horribly unfair vs. the owners losing money, but a much fairer system. and we all know which side will win (hint: it’s the side that makes the people with power money). there is no perfect solution, just one that makes money and one that’s fair.

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  35. Arjun says:

    Why not play a best of 3 where the better team has home field in every game? Basically, it’s a 3 game series… have the season end on a Wednesday or a Thursday, have the series go Friday to Sunday, and have the playoffs start Monday/Tuesday.

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  36. TLD says:

    How about cutting some games off the end of the season? Make the Baseball season 154 games again, then have a three-game playoff for the two wild card teams. You don’t push the playoffs into October that way.

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  37. Anthony says:

    2 divisions per league like the good old days. 2 wild cards. Wildcard winners determined by record instead of division (so both wildcards can come from the same division).

    Problem solved.

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  38. Dan G says:

    I’m still not used to the Red Sox as whipping boy, so two quick points.

    The 162-game season is a great way to evaluate teams; but it is not 100% fair either. Last year, the Yankees were 6 games better than a Red Sox team that did not have many of its allstar players healthy in the middle of the season. How much was Yankee skill and how much luck? Therefore, what is so unfair about having to play 1, 2 or 3 games against the team that might have finished ahead of you had bad luck not intervened?

    Rangers 90-72 in the West; Red Sox 89-73 in the East – what does that prove with or without the injuries?

    On expanded playoffs in general

    I like Jimbo’s playoff format with twist #1. What happens in twist 2 if both winners come from one league – does it set up the possibility of a AL-AL or NL-NL World Series? That is a little too far out there for me.

    As far as the extra wild card goes – I like the 2 game series with the higher seed up by one. You could play an afternoon game, travel, play the next night, play the next series after an off-day. That gives a three day break for the division winners and a one day break for the extra wildcard winner. Its not like they are on buses or that baseball players aren’t used to travel.

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    • Raf says:

      I think luck is mitigated over the course of the regular season.

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      • Dan G says:

        Mitigated – yes. Eliminated – no.

        I’m not saying luck is 6 games. But could it be 1 or 2 games? Even if you ignore the division differences, luck has to be worth more than 1 game between the Rangers and Red Sox last year.

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    • JoeDaddy says:


      MLB should pass sanction eliminating ALL INJURIES. This would be the most fair solution in addressing teams that fail to meet their expected win totals according to their estimated total sum of team talent.

      If Bud Selig doesn’t get this one right, then I move for a vote of no confidence.

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      • Dan G says:


        MLB should not pass a sanction eliminating ALL INJURIES. Boston is noted for its many fine hospitals and this would have a terrible effect on our economy. Rag on my team and my arguments all you want, but times are tough, leave one of the few healthy parts of our economy alone.

        The Sox had a great run of luck in 2004 and 2007 with few missed starts. Despite what the Boston media would have us believe, most fans understand that luck runs both ways.

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  39. zenguerrilla says:

    I like the idea of just having a NL and AL with no divisions. That would work great if you had some type of salary cap. Then playing everyone equally would be fair. If you don’t go to a salary cap and keep divisions I think they should be paired by finances instead of location. 3 divisions would be the rich, middle class, and poor divisions. In true republican style!!! lol Instead of doubling up in the playoffs or having a 1 game playoff I would like to see them add a few more double headers during the season to free up 1 extra week to have a 3 game series for the wild cards. Seems to be the easiest thing to do imho.

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    • JoeDaddy says:

      The idea to break up divisional alignment w/in the league will just never happen. Not only are we talking about some time-honored rivalries, but the revenue generated from the extra divsional gms between the Yanks-BoSox, G’s-Bums, Cards-Cubs, etc is not something anyone in the league office is looking to “fix”. Plus, and I think this is lost on some people, even most fairweather divisional rivalries provide insulation from an attendence standpoint for teams enduring losing seasons.

      As far as the POs go…I think the most obvious remains best. Expand the five-gm format in the Divisional Round into a best-of-seven series and you’ve added at least one more gm in each league and possibly four gms total. Simple. Easy. More money. Less mess.

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  40. jordanmt says:

    If you want more meaningful games follow the European football system. It makes it exciting for the top and bottom teams. 30 teams would split into 3 divisions of 10. Then you relegate the bottom team down a tier (tier 3 goes nowhere) and promote the top team. You make the schedule pretty unbalanced so you play your tier more than that others (maybe 50%) You can play a tournament at the end if you want with say the top 4 out of tier 1, and top 2 out of the other tiers. But really the glory should go to the regular season champ of tier 1 who would truely have shown to be the best of the best over 162 or so.

    Not that this has any hope but I can dream of bringing the much more dynamic European system here to baseball.

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  41. sanket says:

    how about a three game series on a neutral field?

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  42. John C says:

    How about making the divisional winners play their counterpart from the other league in a 5 game series (not a best of 5) the aggregate of all 3 series determining the home-field advantage of the WS? Give each team their September call-ups so they can rest players accordingly. It would mean less than a play-off series to them but more than a lot of late season games. Meanwhile the wild card teams play a best of 7. Also drop the season to 156 to make room on the calendar.

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  43. David S says:

    I wish North American sports had separated the regular season from playoff style tournaments like in football (soccer). I don’t know if they can even choose that route now because everyone only seems interested in investing value in one trophy per season. If the playoffs are unfair it’d be great if there was a trophy for winning the regular season that people valued and another for winning the tournament involving the top teams from the regular season. The single trophy system of the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL seems to be the reason behind the sometimes inconsistent combination of the regular season and playoffs to determine a single champion.

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  44. WilsonC says:

    I think ultimately, the first choice to make is between two somewhat conflicting philosophies: do you want to increase the value of winning the division, or do you want to marginalize divisions in favor of rewarding the best teams?

    The extra wildcard slot in some format would be a really good way of accomplishing the first goal at the expense of the second. If you want to emphasize winning the division, that’s ok – it doesn’t matter if the WC is the second best team in the league, they still finished second which puts them behind even the worst division winner. In this scenario, it’s not a problem to devalue the first WC, it’s a goal.

    If you favor the best teams having the best chance of advancing regardless of division, the idea of scrapping the divisions makes sense, as long as you can make the travel schedules work out. The least exciting race would be the one at the top of the division, as it would be the one secured soonest, but if you’re more concerned with the best teams making it than distinguishing first-place finishes in the regular season, that’s fine.

    The system as is is really a bit of a hybrid between the two philosophies; you still have divisional races, but there’s no significant disadvantage for losing a division if you’re the best second place team (sometimes the second best team).

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  45. Paul Thomas says:

    Eliminating divisions would be awful for anyone in the AL save AL East teams, as the Red Sox and Yankees would be not merely likely, but essentially 100% guaranteed to get playoff spots every single season, leaving the other 12 teams contending for 2 spots. Bud Selig’s idea is infinitely better than that (self-serving, as you admit) notion.

    Far from the laughable notion that this would increase competitiveness, it would likely eliminate more than half the league by September 1. Balanced league schedules with unbalanced team strengths is a “feature” of the English Premier League, in which the same three teams finish 1-2-3 essentially every season.

    So far as I can tell, the evidence against byes is… some unsourced hearsay from “position players.” I don’t know about you, but I do not accept unsourced hearsay from Ye Olde Baseball Men of Yore without questioning it. If we did, we’d still be talking about pitcher wins and RBI.

    I’ll make the same proposal I just made at Beyond the Boxscore:

    1. The league champion is the league champion in the regular season. The playoffs are just qualifiers to the World Series, not a substitute for the regular season. This creates a point of inflection between teams #1 and #2.
    2. The top two division champions get a first-round playoff bye. This creates a point of inflection between the second and third-best division champs.
    3. The worst division champ and best of three wild-card teams host 2 of 3 in the opening round. This creates a point of inflection between teams #4 and #5, and since often the best wild-card team will be better than the worst division champ, it’s not unlikely that it will also create a legitimate reason to strive to win the third division.
    4. Six teams qualify, which obviously creates a major difference between teams #6 and #7.
    5. The bottom two teams are relegated to AAA… well, okay, this is probably unworkable. But ideally you’d like to see it to put some pressure on the teams at the bottom of the league table.

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    • shamus mcfitzy says:

      There’s a big difference between saying baseball byes are wrong because they have a good chance to hurt the teams getting the bye and making an argument for the good ol’ days. Byes work in football because teams already have bye weeks during the season, making them part of the game, teams only play on a weekly basis, so an extra week off is not as significant as it would be for a baseball team, and byes clearly benefit football teams more than baseball teams because of the greater amount of injuries. It is at least plausible that some hitters will be worse with more time off, and I would even say that it’s likely that some starting pitchers will be worse with 7+ days off compared to 4 or 5. The only reason to introduce series-long byes (and they would be “introduced” because byes are not a part of baseball) would be to penalize teams 3 through 6 because that much time off has no known benefit to the top 2 teams and could easily be a hindrance. I would prefer that there were more playoff teams, probably partially because I’m young enough that I don’t know anything other than the 8 team playoff, but I don’t think byes can be introduced to accomplish it.

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      • shamus mcfitzy says:

        more accurately I think only the losers in such a wildcard round would be punished; I don’t think having to play even 7 extra games is really a penalty if you survive them. At that point there would be the current 8 teams, 4 of them having played baseball normally and 4 of them having had a series-long bye that wouldn’t have necessarily given them any more benefit than 3 days off could have.

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        I continue to see nothing but speculation cited as evidence for the proposition that byes are unworkable in baseball. Having the first round off benefits the team for the simple reason that they aren’t going to lose (or suffer injuries) in the first round. That, not peripheral issues like healing from injuries, is the point of a first-round bye.

        In any event, the suggestions I’ve seen have been for 3-game opening series, not “7+ days off.” Those series would be very random, but a. if you want to avoid the randomness, try winning more games in the regular season, b. part of the point is to force the teams to use up their best starters in the first round, which is maximized by having a short series, and c. having “upsets” in the first round actually serves to increase the chances that the top two teams advance through to (what would have to be the renamed) LCS.

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  46. The Iron Horse says:

    This is not soccer or whatever other ridiculous sport some of you want to compare baseball to. This is baseball. Stop commenting on a solution until you know the history of the game.

    The reason there is a World Series is because until 1995 there were 2 separate leagues who did not play interleague games; only league games counted in the standings. The team with the best record at the end of the season won the Pennant. Then, the 2 Pennant winners from the 2 separate leagues would decide who was the better team (because the public demanded the 2 champions play each other to decide an ultimate champion) in a World Series.

    As baseball expanded, there were too many teams to have only 1 Pennant winner (something any baseball historian of late 1800′s major league baseball understood). Therefore, in the late 60′s, the AL and NL were broken up into divisions. The 2 division winners would play each other for the Pennant, and the Pennant winners would play in the World Series.

    Selig ruined baseball with interleague play in ways he doesn’t even understand. However, the problem with the 2 divisions was that the 2 best teams were not necessarily playing in the LCS. He rectified this by going to a 3 division+ 1 WC format. Now, the 2nd best team would be guaranteed to go to the playoffs. Selig did not do this to rectify the problem of the old system. He did it to raise revenue because baseball had to pay the Players’ Association a settlement for the collusion of the late 80′s.

    All rivalries would still be in tact if division play would be eliminated. Teams outside of the AL East would benefit financially from added dates with the Yankees and the Red Sox. Even keeping the same system we have in palce now atleast upholds some sense of tradition.

    In conclusion, any ridiculous idea of trying to be like some soccer league in Europe or trying to hold a playoff game on a neutral site like some amateur sport completely misses the point of what baseball is and why people watch it. People watch playoff baseball to see the ebst teams battle it out for a World Championship. If the majority of people knew that the best teams did not make it to the World Series, they would no longer care about the World Series. Anyone can figure this out by conducting a simple survey of the average person and asking them if the best teams make it to the World Series.

    Adding more teams only takes us further away from what people want the World Seies to be: the best team in the AL playing the best team in the NL.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      And by “people” you of course mean “just you”…

      The evidence is very clear that the casual fan likes expanded playoffs and interleague play (and, indeed, why wouldn’t he– by and large they are more exciting than grinding out the regular season against the same thirteen or fifteen opponents unendingly).

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  47. The Iron Horse says:

    Actually, attendance for interleague play has gone down considerably now that the novelty has worn off. But yes, people did seem to like it, even though it destroyed the whole idea behind having an American league and a National League. And now, they don’t like it as much. And it killed the All-Star game, which people really don’t like anymore.

    Back to the expanded playoffs. No casual fan wants the World Series winner to not be the best team. They merely assume that the World Series winner is the best team. If they knew that letting another team in would make it harder for the best team to win, they wouldn’t like it anymore.

    The casual fan falsely thinks that the wild card team is the 4th worst team and needs to be penalized. If they understood how arbitrary the division set up is, and that the wild card team was not the worst team in the playoffs, they would no longer desire expanded playoffs or to penalize the wild card team.

    You’re wrong, Paul Thomas.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      So, the average fan thinks x, but if he was a real, grizzled baseball traditionalist like your good self, he would actually think what you think he thinks.

      Yeah. Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

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  48. mike wants wins says:

    1. Cut the season to 154 games.
    2. Go to three divisions in each league. Play a more balanced schedule, but keep it somewhat unbalanced. Fans (the kind that are on the margin of paying attn or not, which are the fans all such decisions should be based on) like rivalries. Put 5 teams in each division. Have inter-league games every day if needed.
    3. All teams make the playoffs. That’s right, every team makes the playoffs.
    4. 1 game, winner take all playoffs starts the process. The three division winners and the four next best teams skip rounds 1. The remaining 8 teams in each league play on day one. The survivors play on day 3 (adding in the two worst wild card teams) (1 day for travel). You now have 8 teams left, with the three division winners, two best WC team, and three survivors. I would prefer only having 1 day of travel at this point before the next round. I would actually prefer that the playoffs from here on out be more like the regular season, with less off days. I’d like the “best” team to be not just about stars that can be rested, but about depth of staffs as well.
    5. Next round is best 4 of 7, as you would expect the best record against the worst record….
    6. Next round is best 4 of 7
    7. Next round is best 4 of 7
    8. World Series

    So, the 5 best teams in each league get 4-5 days off, while the others play. Then it is pretty much as is now, with the addition of one round. I’m not sure you’d even have to cut a week of the regular season, but you could. This also gives the three division winners easier teams to play against in round 1. Every team has a smidge of hope. The best teams still have a huge reward for winning the division. The battle to be one of the two best WC, and not in the next tier would be important.

    Huge change the purists won’t like, but the marginal fan (the one that may or may not pay attn to baseball, but is the difference in ratings) would love that first week, and you may be able to keep them around for the “regular” playoffs.

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  49. John says:

    I think without byes or the removal of divisions (neither of which will happen likely), there is only one reasonably equitable way this works.

    Two wild card teams, best of 3
    Day -1: Last day of regular season (try to make this no later than Oct. 2)
    Day 0: Off-day or play-in day
    Day 1 (at worse record team): Day game
    Day 2 (at better record team): Night game to allow for any transcontinental travel
    Day 3 (if necc): Night game or day game, doesn’t really matter
    Day 4: Other match-up (Two winners of divisions without the best record) starts – could even start on Day 3
    Day 5 (or 4 if only takes 2 games): Best record of divison winner vs. wild-card winner begins.

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  50. John says:

    Mine also assumes no shortening of the season which I think is even less likely to occur than byes or division removal.

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  51. gdc says:

    This would not be popular since it does not make money, but there could be some set spacing where the WC1 does not have to play WC2, e.g. if they are 3 games up after 162. That might lose interest if there are no teams in the hunt for WC2 since WC1 is one of the top two teams in the league. However, it is likely to keep WC1 from slacking off to set up their rotation for the playoffs when they are eliminated from the division and possibly keeps out a weak team from lucking into it with just two good starters.

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  52. Bill says:

    Add a third league. AL, NL, and WL (western league). 2 divisions per league, winner goes to playoffs, with 4 wild cards to split between the 3 leagues: 10 teams total. Round one pits four wildcards against the four best 1 seeds, with the other two 1-seeds playing each other simultaneously. That way there is no lost round and 8 teams are allowed in. Keep the 5-7-7 series format.

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  53. jb says:

    First we move AZ from the NLW to the ALW and HOU from the NLC to NLW; now there are 15 teams in each league. I would break down the schedule 40% against your division, (16gms vs ea/tm= 64gms), 40% against the rest of the league, (6gms vs ea/tm + 2 extra gms vs the same finishing tm from each the other divisions-i.e ALE (1)vs ALC & ALW (1) =64 gms), and 20% inter-league, (4gms vs other league’s divsion (16) – i.e. E vs E, C vs C, W vs W, 6gms vs the that dvision rival, i.e. NY/NY, BAL/WAS, TB/FL, BOS/PHI, ATL/TOR, CHI/CHI, KC/STL, MIN/MIL, CLE/PIT, DET/CIN, TX/HOU, LAA/LAD, OAK/SF, SEA/COL, AZ/SD; and 6gms vs the other league’s 2divisions same finishing tms, just like in the example above where ALE (1) vs NLC & NLW (1) – 34 games.

    The total amount of games is still the same, 162, but like the NFL, it’s a bit weighted to try and induce a bit more parody. Also, the inter-league play could be split up throughout the season, where the games are split so AL teams don’t have to play for extended periods without their DH’s. Besides that, you’ll have to have at least one inter-league series every day, I think that’s cool. What do you think?

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  54. dangnewt says:

    I lot of good ideas floating around.

    One idea I wouldn’t mind borrowing from European soccer is that there should be more fanfare and recognition that having the best record in the regular season means something – not as much as winning the WS or even of winning the pennant, but it deserves to be more than an afterthought. Perhaps if a team is both the regular-season and pennant winner, they should get the home field in the WS (unless of course, both or neither teams accomplished that feat – in which case it should revert to however if would have been – I like interleague record but if it remains the All-star game, so be it).

    Has anyone looked into the effect of the unintentional byes that have occured in the current setup. Colorado seemed to be negatively affected by their 8-day layoff in 2007 – that is clearly an extreme. If it can be kept to 3 days, the players might buy into some sort of system that has bye element to it.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      Didn’t seem to do anything to hurt the White Sox in 2005… especially their bullpen, which essentially spent two weeks sitting on its collective rump.

      In any event, the sample size is too small (especially when you consider other factors, like the fact that Colorado was, you know, much worse than Boston in 2007 and probably should have lost in no more than six games anyway) to make much of it.

      I agree on the first point, however (see above).

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  55. a guy says:

    instead of having some dumb playoff game that essentially chooses the 4th seed, why not just get it over with and have 6 teams from each league make the playoffs?…that is where this is all going anyway…why waste the time of everyone with dumb ideas that are just psychological baby steps.

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