New MLB Playoff Format: Wild About Nothing
I can still remember the end of the 2011 regular season like it was yesterday. There I was laying on the in-laws couch, fighting against the oncoming tidal wave of sleep, channel surfing between Yanks-Rays, Red Sox-Orioles and Braves-Phillies. It was the evening of September 28th which turned into the morning of September 29th and we were watching the conclusion of probably the wildest season-ending finish in history. The epic collapses of the Braves and the Red Sox turned into the storybook finishes of the Cardinals and Rays. And we were witnesses to it all, from the sliding miss of Carl Crawford to the historic Rays deficit turned triumph. Now all we have are memories as we will never see a finish like that again.
In their infinite wisdom, Bud Selig and the folks that run Major League Baseball have decided to add two more “playoff” teams, one in each league starting in 2012. Note the “playoff” in quotations. All the extra round of “playoffs” entails is one game between the teams with the fourth and fifth best records in each league. This is supposed to somehow make winning the division matter. That doesn’t even apply in 2012. The team with the lower seed gets the first two games at home. In their rush for more money, they can’t even start the new format in the manner for which it was intended. What is wrong in waiting a year to begin the change? Better yet, here is something fun to ponder. What happens if two teams are tied for the fifth the best record in the league? Do we get to have a one game “playoff” to get to the one game “playoff”? And if somehow three teams are tied for fifth best? Do we have a “play-in playoff game” before we have the “playoff game” before the one game, winner takes all, right to advance to the divisional round-”playoff game”?
We know where this is heading. Eventually, the charade of five playoff teams will eventually grow to six and another round of postseason baseball will be added. Baseball used to be able to separate itself from football, hockey and basketball by virtue that the regular season really mattered. When the move does go to six playoff teams per league, it will just be like the NFL. Too bad they won’t get anywhere near the ratings the NFL commands. What baseball should have done was to expand by two more teams making the total number 32. They then could have formed eight, four team divisions, sixteen teams in each league. It would make only the divisions winners playoff teams but with only four teams in each division, many teams would have meaningful, late season contests. That is how you make winning the division matter.
To me, baseball is still the greatest game we have. However as much as I love it, we will eventually tune out more and more as the season runs from St. Patrick’s Day and ends around Thanksgiving. Too much of a good thing is not good. Games become meaningless. The NFL will find that out as they keep adding games to traditional, non-pro football days and times. I hope baseball wises up and realizes that more games does not necessarily translate into more dollars. It will make for a more entertaining and profitable season for all of us.
Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com