“Expanded Playoffs Appear Inevitable”

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Bud Selig’s proposal to add two wild card teams; in the interim, that proposal has all but become a certainty. “Expanded playoffs appear inevitable” is the Yahoo headline for the Associated Press story. And, of course, it makes sense why it would be inevitable: Selig and the owners believe that more playoff teams means more money, and players and teams have little incentive to resist a plan that gives them more of a shot at the postseason. Two more facets of the plan from two weeks ago seem more likely: the new wild cards will first appear in 2012, not 2011, and they will probably play a best-of-three series rather than a one-game playoff.

I outlined my objections to the plan two weeks ago, so there’s no reason to restate them at length: I want to keep the schedule from expanding further and prevent the slippery slope of an expanded playoff schedule eroding the significance of the regular season. The main objection beyond that is the speciousness of the stated reasoning. Bud Selig has couched the idea of expanding the playoffs in language about “fairness:” “Eight is very fair number [of playoff teams] but so is 10.” Craig Calcaterra rightly calls him out for that:

I’d probably be less hostile to expanded playoff talk if someone in power could make a single baseball-based argument in favor of it. Likewise, if they simply said “this is about the money, really.” I’d probably lay off too, because hey, at least it’s honest. But please, spare me the “10 is more fair than eight” baloney. What are we, total idiots to them?

Idiots, no. Obviously, this plan is predicated on money. But there is a hidden fairness to it all, which is tied to the fundamental unfairness of the unbalanced schedule and current structure of baseball divisions. It’s fundamentally unfair for the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Baltimore Orioles to be in competing for two playoff spots with the two richest teams in baseball. Adding another playoff spot is just a bandaid on that problem, but it at least addresses it, and since no other division in baseball has the same problems, maybe a bandaid is all that’s needed. And it’s a little late for a slippery slope argument, as Blue Jay president Paul Beeston notes: “We really crossed that bridge, didn’t we, when we went from two teams to four teams, and then four teams to eight teams? So that bridge has been crossed. I’ve changed. I could add more teams.” Of course, Beeston is one of the men who will benefit most from the new plan.

But the more important ramification of this is that these two new best-of-three series will have to fit into the already packed playoff schedule, tailored as it is to maximize prime time weekend television exposure. Predictably, no one has any stomach for reducing the schedule from 162 games — because, of course, that would mean less money. Rob Neyer suggests that the only way to free up more days on the calendar, then, is to increase the number of traditional day-night doubleheaders. That’s an idea so quaint it seems impossibly naive — the Oakland A’s recently caused headlines by scheduling their first traditional day-night doubleheader since 1995, and they likely did it for a gimmick, to gin up interest in a team whose attendance has been lackluster for years. It seems unlikely that other teams would willingly sign up for that. But Neyer’s right that those extra playoff days will have to come from somewhere.

There isn’t much terribly wrong with this plan, in the abstract: it will make a lot of people richer while helping to increase the hopes of Blue Jays and Orioles fans without much hurting the fans of other teams. Compared to them, my objections are relatively minor. But I wish baseball’s leadership weren’t so disingenuous about it all. At least now I have nearly a year and a half to get used to the idea of 10 playoff teams.



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Alex is a writer for The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


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KAll
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KAll

Here’s my baseball reason for it:

More playoff sports mean that more teams are in a playoff race for a longer period of time. That means more butts in seats for a longer period of time in more cities to coincide with increased hope. More interest in baseball in more cities for people who have more options than ever on how to spend their discretionary income

That means 2 more teams have a couple more games to generate revenue, which increases their ability to spend which increases their competetiveness year in year out.

Its not about fairness, its about money… and there’s nothing wrong with that. Without money, there’s no baseball.

Baseball can either change or get left behind.

Krog
Guest
Krog

Is anyone really all that interested in regular season basketball? When too many teams make the playoffs the regular season doesn’t matter. My local Giants were a huge story in September because of the rarity of playoff spots and it took the entire regular season for them to make it to the postseason. Expanded playoffs would lessen the drama of the regular season.

Aaron
Guest

Yes (to your first question.)

Aaron
Guest

Oops, misread your statement. No (to your first question.)

Danmay
Guest
Danmay

I don’t know, but I get the impression that possibly we – as sports fans that don’t view the NBA as their favorite – might be assuming that non-casual basketball fans don’t really care about the regular season. I know that I don’t care about the regular season much at all, but I’m not a serious NBA fan.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

NBA Regular season games for good teams are nothing but either practice, or battles of ego.

Example: No one (with a brain) in Boston is gloating too much over the C’s going 2-0 against the Heat. We know this could easily change in the postseason. Definitely is fun to see the team win against the Heat, though.

Hank
Guest
Hank

I wonder about the execution of this scenario…. if it’s not a winner take all, then I assume it’s best of three?

So how does that work? Is there a day off after the reg season – if not that might punish one team if they are on the road or have to travel for that game (and it might be the higher seeded wildcard winner).

Are there home games for both teams? 1-1-1 format, 1-2 format 2-1 (which seems unlikely as it might mean no home games for a team). If these are teams on opposite sides of the country is there a travel day? Is there a day off after the series is over? It seems like the division winners will have 4 or 5 days off (maybe more) and I wonder what impact that might have.

This also would have sucked most of the drama out of what was a great 3 way race in the NL for 2 spots. It would have rendered Atlanta last few games meaningless (as they would have been locked in to a wildcard spot).

It’s just a matter of time where the 2nd wildcard team is locked in and has a chance to rest and setup their rotation and will face a wildcard team with a better record who was battling down to the wire to win a division and will go into the series without their best pitcher (or even top 2) and be at a disadvantage despite winning more games. And if it is a winner take all you might have an ace going up against a #3 or #4 starter.

wt
Guest
wt

maybe they should pick a spot ahead of time for the wild card game(s) to be played. Then just have a three game series in one spot, so they can get it done quickly and not disadvantage the teams that earned a legit spot.

Matt
Guest
Matt

5 out of 14 AL teams will make the playoffs under this new 10 team playoff crap. That’s over 1/3. But why stop there? If we let 12 teams into the playoffs then EVEN MORE teams will be “in the race.” And hell, if we let 14 teams EVEN MORE teams will be. Who cares if half of all AL teams will make the playoffs then.

The more this issue gets discussed, the more I feel that the only reason it might happen is because the Yankees’ revenue is ridiculous. Are we really going to restructure the playoffs because we can’t find a way for the Blue Jays to compete with the Yankees?

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