Apparently baseball’s GM’s support the plan to expand the postseason (via Craig):
The general managers are all meeting in Florida this week and, as we’ve expected, one of the items on the agenda will be making a proposal to Commissioner Selig about expanding the first round of the playoffs with an additional wild card team. The news nugget here is that the GMs USA Today’s Bob Nightengale spoke to all prefer that the first round of the playoffs, which would be between each league’s two wild card teams, either be a one-and-done elimination game or, at most, a best of three scenario.
This plan will have some consequences that I fear may be detrimental to the sport. As Craig notes, a 1 or 3 game series simply adds to the randomness of the postseason, and will often result in the better team going home. Relatedly, this system rewards mediocrity and will allow weak teams into the postseason. A perfect example of the ill effects of this idea can be found in the events at the end of the 2010 season.
If there had been an extra wild-card round in 2010, the AL might have been more exciting down the stretch. The Yankees and Rays likely would have been playing much harder so as to win the East and obtain a first round bye. On the other end, the 89 win Red Sox and 88 victory White Sox would have been locked in a battle for the second Wild card spot. Conversely, some of the drama may have been pulled from the NL race to the finish, as the Giants, Padres, and Braves would have all been guaranteed of at least a wild card berth.
The question that needs to be asked, of course, is whether we want those teams in the postseason. Why should the 95 win Yankees and 89 win Red Sox, with a clear gulf in talent between them, be put on equal footing in a wild card round? By the same token, does anyone really believe that the 2008 Yankees belonged in a postseason series with the 2008 Red Sox? The short nature of the series means that the highly inferior clubs would have a legitimate chance to advance. This plan diminishes the importance of the 162 game schedule, which is the feature that distinguishes baseball from other major sports.
A better plan would focus on tweaking the current system to make the wild card berth significantly less valuable than a division championship. One solution would be to give the team playing the wild card team an extra home game, with the wild card club getting only Game 3 in their building. This would make winning the division a priority, while serving to create a race for the best record in the league (and right to play the wild card team) as well.
Do you like the playoff expansion idea? Do you have an alternative?