>Thanksgiving/Black Friday Lunch: MLB Playoff Changes

Posted: November 26, 2010 in mlb
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By: Nick Gallaudet

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is notorious for being Bengie-Molina-fast in making changes. Steroids and replay are perfect examples of Selig’s inactivity, so why is he so eager to change the playoffs? If you haven’t heard, Selig said playoff expansion is something he wants to get done “as fast as we can.” My question is: “why?” Baseball has been taking a lot of criticism recently regarding the length of the playoffs. The Division and Championship Series are being juggled to allow for optimal TV coverage, but the result is unnecessary off days and excruciatingly long breaks between series. The World Series routinely ends in November now, and that’s not a good thing for a warm weather game. I love baseball, and even I, someone who considers the baseball playoffs the greatest time of the year, am upset with the way it is being run. I hate the unnecessary off days, unbearable waits between series, and the announcers (the last one isn’t really Selig’s fault). I’m not against change, after all, I did write an article in favor of replay, but this expansion cannot happen.

The proposed expansion to at least ten teams (five in each league) would create a big problem. Selig mentioned that there could be the addition of another wild card team, and that the wild card teams would face off against each other in a one or three game playoff to join the Division winners in the real tournament. This is absurd. The bye works in football, because it allows teams to heal, but baseball is the last sport in which a bye is beneficial. Baseball is a game of repetition. You play every day, you’re not meant to have long breaks between games, and you shouldn’t, especially when the championship is on the line. Baseball is about rhythm and timing and long breaks like that throw both of those things off for both pitchers and hitters. During the season, pitchers have very strict routines between starts, and when you start messing those patterns up, the result is noticeably worse for most of them. The perceived benefit of winning your Division would, in my opinion, really be a disadvantage. Aside from the time off for the Division winners, the two team playoff is a silly idea. The play-in game for the NCAA basketball tournament is widely disregarded, and not truly considered a part of the tournament, and I’m afraid this will be perceived similarly. This series will be seen as a novelty, and not really part of the playoffs.

Expanding the playoffs by one team in each league is a silly idea, and the only fair way to increase participation in the postseason is by adding more than one team to each league. That in itself creates a problem, though. Baseball is the last major American sport where you have to earn your playoff berth. With only eight of the 30 teams making the postseason, baseball has the lowest percentage of teams playing in the postseason. Football has 32 teams, 12 of which make the playoffs, and basketball has 30 teams, 16 of which make the playoffs. MLB teams have to earn their spot in the playoffs; something that I think is under appreciated. Rarely do teams sneak into the baseball playoffs with poor records, unlike the NFL and NBA where there are routinely teams hovering around the .500 mark making the playoffs. This lends meaning to the regular baseball season and adds honor to the title of playoff team. I think expanding the playoffs is a terrible idea and will really cheapen the baseball playoff experience.

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