My expanded thoughts on expanded playoffs

Last week, it became clear that baseball was moving towards expanding the playoffs to ten teams, adding one from each league. The details have yet to be hammered out, but we know that the two wildcard teams would play each other in some format, whether it’s a best of three or a one game, winner take all playoff. I don’t love either idea, or the big idea for that matter.

A one game playoff for teams that aren’t competing for the same spot just seems silly. Aren’t you basically negating the entire season at that point? As for a three game playoff, it makes more sense but is still time consuming, and makes the division winner wait longer, and possibly get rusty (it could help them rest up, too, though).

As for the big idea, adding teams to the playoffs, I just don’t like it. I think there needs to be tinkering with the playoff system, but not in this way. Adding a team could basically reward a team for coming in third place, something that I don’t like at all. People say it will also add to the incentive to win a division crown, since teams won’t want to have to play a one game playoff or a three game series if they only make the wildcard. If anything, this de-emphasizes winning a division crown. Why should I, as a manager, bust my team’s proverbial hump to win a division when I can possibly coast into a playoff spot as a second or possibly third place team?

This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be changes made to the playoffs. The changes should not include adding a new team, though. And, my plan for playoff realignment includes complete and total league realignment. Four teams in the playoffs is a good fit, but the current division system isn’t all that great. Though I doubt this ever happens again, MLB needs to go back to the no-division style of play. The divisions should be eliminated and the schedule should be balanced as much as possible. I understand the schedule would still need to be a little unbalanced to account for historical rivalries, but balancing out the schedule seems sensible. After that, the teams with the four best records would be the ones to make the playoffs. Those teams would be seeded for the LDS, with the team with the better record getting home field advantage (obviously), and the same would apply for the LCS. The team with the best record would get home field advantage in the World Series.

What do you think? Should MLB go ahead with the playoff expansion plans or should they ditch them? Do you think changes should be made? If so, what should they be? Have at it, commenters!

9 thoughts on “My expanded thoughts on expanded playoffs

  1. This is a ridiculous idea I had a conversation with someone about a while back, but I think it’s really fun so I’ll throw it out there.

    If you’re going to add a second WC team and let the 2 WC teams duke it out for a chance to play the top seed in the ALDS, let the 2 WC teams play a best-of-3 series… In 2 days. Have it fall on a weekend so they play the first game on Saturday then the first elimination game early Sunday afternoon… and if they’re at 1-1 after the early Sunday game, you turn around and play another game to decide the series.

    You’re adding another WC team, which appears to be what MLB thinks is in its best interest, while providing a really exciting event for the fans and granting an advantage to the top seed who will play the winner of the WC series (they only take 2-3 days off, so they don’t get too much rest, while they get to face a team that’s possibly a bit depleted and, at the very least, hasn’t had a chance to rest and line up its rotation).

    If they did this you can’t tell me even casual baseball fans wouldn’t be glued to their TVs that Sunday. This is event-television, people would be amped up and would watch this. (And hopefully you’re creating more excitement for the rest of the postseason at the same time.)

  2. I really hope Baseball doesn’t add another Wild Card team. I struggle to see the logic of punishing a team like the 2010 Yankees, who were a Wild Card team, but also one of the top three or four teams in the AL last season. Just as much I struggle to see why the winner of a weak division should be rewarded at all? How does baseball benefit if an 86 game Wild Card team with a great ace bumps a 94 game Wild Card team in a short playoff? None of this does anything to address the lack of parity between divisions, and seems conspicuously designed to punish the AL East.

  3. Joe G

    I completely understand all the arguments against adding another team, and while I like to think of myself as a smart baseball fan, I must admit…I wouldn’t mind seeing a one game wildcard format. I know its wrong for every reason Matt pointed out above, but as just a fan who likes to watch exciting baseball, a winner takes all game is exactly that. It gives the casual fan some drama, and some quality baseball (or at least we hope), plus it mixes in the football mentality of win or go home.

    But I will add I’m only in favor of it if it is one game, and not a best of 3. I don’t want to see the season extended until November, and I don’t think the Division Winner should suffer by waiting an extra week. But it does give fans of teams who often don’t make the playoffs a bit more hope, and it does burn off another pitcher from the wild card team, thus giving the division winner a bit more of an advantage. However if they go forward with this, they have to eliminate the stupid rule that the wildcard winner can’t play a team from it’s division in the first round.

    Otherwise I support whatever is good for baseball, and more fans tuning in to watch an intense game can’t really be a bad thing.

  4. I don’t follow your argument about a team opting to coast into a wild card, and a one game playoff, instead of going all out to win the division. I can’t see any scenario under which that would happen.

    Before last year, I might have been reflexively against adding another wild card, but after watching how the Yankees and Rays treated the last month of 2010, I would now welcome anything that would restore significance to winning a division, and by extension the entire regular season schedule. In my entire life as a baseball fan, nothing was more dissatisfying than watching the Yankees “lose battles to win the war”.

    Baseball’s biggest strength and it’s most lucrative revenue driver is the regular season; not the playoffs. Even though an extra wild card might let one inferior team in, it would increase the importance of so many regular season games. That’s a tradeoff I can accept.

  5. oldpep

    I think the play-offs are only part of a larger ‘problem’. The schedule is a mess and completely unfair. The unbalanced schedule and inter-league play make the wild card less about the better team that didn’t win their division and more about who got the easier schedule. With 162 games, that should never be the case. (It’s a testament to just how good the Yanks and Sox are that they’ve made it so many times.)
    The way the system is set up now, completely undeserving teams can win a world series with just a bit of a hot streak, as two pretty weak Marlins’ teams already have.
    I think most of us have resigned ourselves to things like this getting only worse, since Selig et al think the changes they’ve made make baseball more attractive.

  6. TedK

    I’m not a fan of the concept of adding another wildcard. But I do like the idea of making winning the division more attractive. I like the idea of penalizing the wildcards with an extra round, and I’m also someone who can’t see teams coasting into a wildcard. Maybe they won’t kill themselves, but I see teams wanting to get that bye.

    Don’t know how realistic it is, but I like JoeRo’s idea of a 2-day wildcard showdown. There also are currently two off days after the regular season to allow for one game tiebreaker playoffs. If you want to avoid the playoffs running too late into November, another way you can save time (without shortening the regular season) would be to say that in the event of multiple teams being tied, all tiebreaker games would be played on one date in one stadium.

    I read an article with player reactions about the expanded playoffs, and one of the themes was that they feel squeezing in a wildcard round without travel days would increase injury risk. I travel for work and understand why players would want travel days to be fresh for their games. But I don’t get how there’s an injury risk.

  7. YankeesJunkie

    I say just to the hell with it. Both leagues turn to one league, one division and the top 2 teams from each league play each other for a chance to for the World Series. Interleague is still present to about 6-9 games per team, but outside of that the schedule is fiarly balanced. No bad teams will ever make the playoffs and will reward teams for having a great season. Will this ever happen? Ha…no.

  8. roadrider

    You say you don’t want to reward a team that comes in third with a playoff spot and then you turn around and advocate for eliminating the divisions and putting the top four teams in the playoffs. How does that make sense?

    You want to fix the playoffs and the division set up and make winning a regular season title more meaningful? It’s really simple. Divide each league into two divisions and let ONLY the division winners advance to the post-season. Sound familiar? It should – this system worked quite well from 1969 to 1993 until Seligula and the owners (OK, I’m sure the players were fine with it too) created this loopy three-division, wild-card setup and added the complication of inter-league play which is now used as an excuse as to why we can’t go back to the old system. Yes, geographic bias will exist and some years some divisions may be weaker than others but you’re much less likely to get a sub-90 win team winning a division title in the old setup than in anything involving three of more divisions.

  9. NoDivisions

    When they add the new playoff team, they should also eliminate divisions.

    Here is my idea:

    -Move the Rockies to AL, so both leagues have 15 teams-7 in the east time zone, 4 in the central, 4 in the west (mtn/pac)
    -Play the four teams in your former division 11 games and the other ten teams 10 games for 144 league games.
    -Play 18 interleague games. Since both leagues would have 15 teams, interleague would have to be going all the time-either 1 or 3 series going all the time.
    -Shorten the season by a week, and play 6 day/night doubleheaders, scheduled roughly once a month.
    -Play 50 series total in 25 weeks. 2 game-2, 3 game-36, 4 games in 4 days-6, 4 games in 3 days-4, 5 games in 4 days-2.
    -Top 5 teams make the playoffs. 4 hosts 5 in a best-of-three. This would put a premium on finishing first to face the Play-in winner. It also puts a premium on finishing in the top-3, to avoid the play-in series. It also gives the 4-seed an advantage by getting all three play-in games. The 5-seed would be penalized, and would have to win the Play-In series to get home playoff games in the next round.

    If they’re going to do this, do it right. Seed the teams in the right order, shorten the season by a week, after the Play-In series make the rest of the rounds best-of-seven, and keep the World Series out of November.

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