Coleman’s Corner: The 5-Game Division Series Has Got To Go

By Ed Coleman
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Baseball just never seems to get it right.

No matter how hard MLB tries, it can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. I’ve listened to all the experts and geniuses who want to fix postseason baseball, and none of it makes any real sense to me.

While people are falling all over themselves to add more wild-card teams to the mix, how about assessing what currently exists and try to make it better?

Everyone’s talking about the early exits of baseball’s two winningest teams, the Phillies (102) and Yankees (97). Yes, Philadelphia did stand above the crowd, but the other three  playoff teams in the National League were all 90-game winners: Milwaukee (96), Arizona (94) and St. Louis (90). And the American League qualifiers were also all 90-game winners: Texas (96), Detroit (95) and Tampa Bay (91).

Hey, the Cardinals might have had the Phillies’ number this year. They won 6 of 9 during the season, and even took 3 out of 4 in Philly in mid-September. But there’s something to be said about rewarding excellence over a 162-game schedule. And deep-sixing the ridiculous five-game opening round series is a good place to start.

MLB plays twice as many games as the NHL and the NBA – and this year it’ll probably be more than that with the NBA already canceling games. Yet both basketball and hockey have seven-game series throughout their playoffs, beginning with the opening round.

Traditional thinking contends that the longer a playoff series goes, the better team has a greater chance to win because of talent and depth. A hot team, a hot goaltender, a team which owns another could easily upset that equation. And if so, so be it – that’s sports. I don’t know if the Phillies or Yankees would have come back to win Games 6 and 7, which they would have had to do. But don’t they deserve that chance, finishing at the top of their sport after a grueling six-month grind?

Baseball could easily do this by cutting back to the old schedule — 154 games — but what do you think the chances of that happening is? The owners would have to give back an entire 4-game series at home.

It’ll never happen. Nice thought.

Basketball and hockey play six-month schedules, but play half the games that baseball does, yet they maintain seven-game playoff series throughout their postseason. At the very least, baseball deserves that.

And for those of you who want to add another two wild-card teams to the mix, keep this in mind: The last day of the regular season this year was considered to be THE best or one of THE best in baseball history. There were four games on the final day which meant everything. And three of them produced fabulous finishes which kept everyone glued to their TV’s and radios throughout the night — and morning.

St. Louis started the night with a rout of the Astros in Houston 8-0. A little more than an hour later, the Phillies tied the Braves with a run in the ninth off the impenetrable Craig Kimbrel, and then Hunter Pence singled in the winner in the 13th to doom Atlanta. By knocking out the Braves and welcoming in the Cardinals, the Phillies might have doomed themselves.

Meanwhile, over in the other league, the Orioles got two runs in the bottom of the ninth off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (who was having a great season) to beat Boston 4-3 and put them on the brink of elimination. And the Tampa Bay Rays – who trailed the Yankees 7-0 – tied the game 7-7 in the ninth inning on a two-strike, two-out home run by pinch-hitter Dan Johnson (are you kidding?). Then, four minutes after Boston lost, Evan Longoria homered in the 12th inning to put the Rays in the playoffs.

Does it get any better than that, final day or not? You decide.

It wouldn’t happen every year – but it did this year. And it might happen again. Sooner than you think.

So think about it.

C U soon
Eddie C.

Do you agree that the five-game series has got to go? Let Eddie know in the comments below…

  • Walt Gekko

    Not just owners would never want to give back games, a lot of fans would be upset if we cut back to 154 games.

    What really has to happen is Selig and MLB need to get over “Novemberphobia” and set it up where the World Series starts the day after Election Day (which this year would have meant Game 1 of the World Series would have been on November 9, the latest possible date in this scenario). I would rather see a late start to the World Series than deal with what can still be frigid weather in some parts of the country in early April by also pushing the start of the season back a week or two, also getting the start of the season away from March Madness.

    In addition to a seven game divisional round, I would add two additional wild cards to each league to make it where for a team like the Yankees or Phillies, they have to keep winning in order to make sure they get a first-round bye, which would be important since in my format, the three wild cards and team with the worst record of the division champions having to play a single-elimination wild card round that would make for MANY more meaningful late-season games.

  • adam price

    Agree with Ed, and I’ve been saying this for years. If any sport shouldn’t have 5 gm series, it’s baseball. Basketball and Hockey are more suited towards 5 gamers in the 1st round, so many teams make the playoffs.

  • Anthony

    If MLB goes to a seven game series in the opening round, then the WS might end in the middle of November, just in time for Thanksgiving.

  • Jeffrey Jung

    The 5 game DS is just contrary to baseball’s “marathon” style of a sport. You go hard 162 and then it boils down to a 5 game crap-shoot? Hardly fair. Isn’t the idea of a sports playoffs to decide which team is “the best”? You might think I’m whining as a Yankee fan but the 5 game series has been silly from the get-go. Heck look at all those As teams that the Yanks beat up on — they were potentially good enough to get past the Yankees but things just broke the wrong way. Yankees are also 9-7 in the DS so they do move on more often than not.

    It’s possible some people are ok with the idea of a playoff crap-shoot. It does add parity to a degree as you can’t expect to build the best team possible and win a 5 game series.

  • louie

    well said ED, I agree with you 100%

  • Pip

    If the cardinals were in the NL east they would have won just as many games as the Phillies.

  • Tony Vahl

    Yeah, it makes a lot of sense to make the ALDS a best-of-seven. They should also give the team with the best record five home games against the Wild Card, and make the series 2-home, 2-away, 3-home.

    To make the schedule work, start the season earlier. They managed to end the season on September 30th this year, so it’s not impossible. We’re only talking about two extra games!

  • Jason

    this article is stupid. if both the phillies and yankees advanced to the second round, this article wouldn’t even exist. Just because they are 2 of baseballs most popular teams, doesnt mean they have to go deep into the playoffs every single year. they had just as much of a chance to win the series as the tigers and cardinals did, but they were outplayed and lost, plain and simple. if both series had gone 7 games and the phils and yankees still lost, then everyone would be somehow complaining about that as well. get off the bandwagon and give the teams who won some credit. no team deserves special attention.

    • Tony Vahl

      This is not the first time this has happened. Baseball should have fixed this years ago, to eliminate excuses.

      • Jason

        i agree. i’m not against a 7 game series, i’m just tired of everyone always making excuses as to why the good teams get knocked out early. the yankees have lost a bunch of first round series the last few years. the phillies had their ace on the mound for game 5 and i think every philly fan was confident that they would win, but the offense didnt show up. should they add more home games to the better team? maybe, maybe not. i just wish it would be more even in giving credit to the teams that did win and not just make it all about how the phillies and yankees lost. technically, both teams had home field advantage and were both on their home fields during the deciding game, they just both got outplayed

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