As expected, MLB has announced the expanding of the playoffs for this season. Today Major League Baseball announced the playoffs will be expanded from eight teams, to ten teams. Five teams in each league will now make the postseason, three division winners, and two wild cards. We all knew this was coming. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has been itching to expand the playoffs for some time now. Unfortunately Selig failed to see the bigger picture, and there will be a slight tweak to the playoff system but only for this year. What is this minor tweak , which could cause major ripples throughout this year’s playoff races?…..
The initial changes weren’t supposed to take place until 2013. The players union had been talking about making all the divisions even thereby creating more competitive balance. In order to do this they decided to move the Astros into the AL west starting in 2013. This will create three five team divisions in each league. This was something that was tied to the, sale of the Astros, and the new collective bargaining agreement. They were going to wait until 2013 to implement the new playoff format, however Selig didn’t want to wait until the following year.
Here was the problem at hand. The regular season and postseason schedule were already set for 2012. In order to make room for the extra playoff games, the schedule would have to be changed. The new system has both wildcard teams in each league meeting in a one-game do or die, winner take all play-in. For some reason, someone had the bright idea to end the regular season on a Wednesday this year. The regular season ends on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. The first division series is scheduled to begin on October 6. They have to fit both wild card games, tiebreakers, and or any rain-out, or makeup games, within those couple of days in between, the end of the regular season, and the start of the division series. In 2013, there wont be a problem, because they can end the regular season on a Sunday, and schedule beforehand accordingly.
Selig should have just waited until 2013. Here is where he screws up. In order to make the necessary schedule room for those extra wild card games, and any possible tiebreakers, the format of the division will be changed, but only for this year. Normally, the division series is a 2-2-1 format. Meaning the top two teams with home field advantage in the five game playoff series, always get the first two games at home. The next two games are at the other ballpark, and if there is a fifth and deciding game, they travel back to the ballpark of the team with the home field advantage. That makes sense. It has always made sense, and that is what really creates competitive balance within the format of those playoff series. However, in order to fit in these extra couple of games, the format will be changed to a 2-3 format in the division series. The LCS, and World Series formats, will remain unchanged. This means that the wild card team that advances to the division series, will have the first two games at home, and then go on the road for the last three games. The reasoning behind this is to eliminate the extra travel day if the series goes five games. The format will go back to the usual 2-2-1 format for the 2013 season.
I think Selig really made a big mistake here. No not the entire new playoff system. I mean I think it is somewhat gimmicky, but I think the good outweighs the bad. The mistake is changing the division series format this year. What this will do is make it anything goes this postseason. All you have to do it get in, and even if you are a wild card, you will have an advantage going into the playoffs. Giving the wild card team the first two games at home, just is not fair. This isn’t what competitive balance is. You don’t give the wild card team an advantage just because you are in a hurry to get all the games scheduled. Although you still must win your division in order to not have to waste your best starting pitcher, and win a one-game playoff.
This does raise some questions about the trade deadline on July 31st. How will this affect the trade market? The addition of the second wild card, could drastically change the landscape of the trade market. With more teams in it to win it, we could see a lot more sellers than buyers at the deadline. The new playoff system isn’t that bad. Like I said it is a bit gimmicky, and I think forcing two teams’ entire seasons come down to one game is somewhat stupid. It goes against traditional Baseball rules. I do like the fact that division winners get an edge, and we can add these extra games in without the World Series running into November. Another change is that a wild card team can play a team from their own division in the division series, Since the playoffs expanded in 1995, this has not been the case.
Some people believe that by adding the second wild card, all of the drama will be removed from the pennant race. I disagree. No, there will always be drama at the end of the season as teams annually fight for that last playoff spot, that second wild card. There will still be drama, it will just be a bit different. MLB wanted to be sure that there is a one-game playoff every season. It should be a lot of fun.
Another thing this does is give the Dodgers an extra chance at the playoffs this year. Why couldn’t the Dodgers grab that last playoff spot? Stacie already discussed how the extra wild card spot could allow the Dodgers to be in the race later than usual.
With the new owner already in place by July, could the Dodgers hang in, and make a run? It is possible. Anything is possible. MLB has not released the exact dates for those two one-game playoffs, but they should be between October 3rd , and October 6th. I don’t care too much about the extra playoff game, and the Astros moving into the AL west. I don’t like the fact that it will require inter-league play year round, but that is a topic for discussion for another day. What do you think of the expanded playoff system? Love it? Hate it? Or don’t care either way? Let us know in our poll beloew!
What I think is stupid, is Bud Selig watering down the division series format, just to eliminate an extra couple days of travel during the playoffs, in order to fit the games in this year. No, Selig should have just waited until 2013. What it means is that this year, the playoffs are up for grabs. It truly is anyone’s race. The division series format returns back to the normal format in 2013. It would have been nice to have one last normal season before all of these changes, but no Selig had to get this in for this season. You should have waited Bud, you should have waited.