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MLB Playoffs Don’t Need To Be Expanded

April 24, 2011

One of the beauties of Major League Baseball is that only eight of the 30 teams make the playoffs. That’s only 26 percent, compared to the NBA’s and NHL’s 52 percent. MLB’s playoff setup makes its regular season mean more than any other sport’s regular season, even though there are 162 games.

However, if Bud Selig has his way, the MLB playoffs may be expanding. I’m usually all for innovation in sports, especially baseball. But it’s not like the sport’s playoff system hasn’t worked, and over and over again in October you’ll hear analysts and fans complain that it’s not fair that a wild card team makes it into the playoffs with a less-than-stellar record.

Even MLB players aren’t supporting Selig’s plans now. Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum called Selig’s plans “funky,” which is absolutely awesome.

Anyway, Selig just continues to confuse me with some of his decisions and plans. He doesn’t want the World Series to be played into November, so the 2011 MLB season begins in the middle of the week in March. But now he wants to expand the playoffs to a wild-card winner-take-all one-game playoff or best-of-3 playoff series between two wild card teams. Wouldn’t adding two more teams to the playoffs and adding more games lengthen the playoffs, not shorten it?

Selig has been staunchly against playing games on the last days of October and into November for many years now, but now he wants to lengthen the playoffs? It doesn’t make sense.

Neither would adding another wild-card team to play against the first wild-card team when the second wild-card team is substantially worse than the first wild-card team. If Team A plays in a tough division along with the best team in the league and compiles a record of 94-68, should it have to play Team B who only won 86 games, but can’t even win its own division, even though its division is much weaker than Team A’s? No. But that’s what would happen under Selig’s new playoff plan. Isn’t a 162-game sample much better than a one-game sample?

In 2009 should the 87-win Texas Rangers been able to play the 95-win Boston Red Sox in a one-game wild-card playoff to determine who advances to the divisional series? The Sox played (and still play) in a much tougher division than the Rangers and even had a much better divisional record than the Rangers did. The Sox would’ve ran away with the AL East in ’09 if it wasn’t for the 103-win juggernaut that was the New York Yankees. Just because you’re in a better division with a juggernaut doesn’t mean you should be penalized and have to play in a sudden-death one-game playoff against an inferior foe for the right to play in the divisional series.

MLB does get it right when two teams tie after 162 games and are forced to play a winner-take-all 163rd game. Nothing’s more exciting than a do-or-die game between two evenly matched teams with a spot in the playoffs on the line. And even though a winner-take-all wild-card playoff series would be exciting, it wouldn’t be fair to the better team who’s proven its capabilities over a 162-game schedule.

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From → MLB

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