NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Major League Baseball could add two teams to their playoff format this season.
CBSSports.com and WFAN’s Jon Heyman said Wednesday an agreement is “extremely likely” and expected soon, though negotiators for baseball players and owners told The Associated Press that there is no set deadline for an agreement to expand the playoffs to 10 teams.
The sides have said for weeks a deal is likely. When players and owners signed their agreement for a new labor contract in November, the section covering the postseason established a March 1 goal for deciding whether the playoffs would increase by two teams for 2012 or 2013.
But in recent days both sides said negotiations would continue beyond Thursday if they needed time, the AP reported.
The deal would establish a new one-game, wild-card round in each league between the teams with the best records who are not division winners, meaning a third-place team could win the World Series.
Creating it for 2012 has been complicated because the regular-season schedule was drafted last spring and summer, and the extra game has to be put in place in a manner that doesn’t disrupt the World Series schedule. Further complicating scheduling, the sides reached a consensus that ties for division titles would be broken on the field with a tiebreaker game under the new playoff format, and not by head-to-head record.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said Jan. 27 the expansion for this season was on track.
“I really believe we’ll have the wild card for 2012, this year,” he said. “Clubs really want it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an issue that the clubs want more than to have the extra wild card this year.”
“We’re working on dates right now. That’ll all take place. It looks to me like we’ll have it because I’ve told everybody we have to have it. It’ll be exciting. One-game playoff, it will start the playoffs in a very exciting manner,” he added.
According to the memorandum of agreement, the commissioner’s office was to give the players’ association a modified postseason schedule by Feb. 1.
“The association shall have 30 days after receiving the modified 2012 postseason schedule from the office of the commissioner to determine whether it will grant its consent,” the agreement states. “Such consent shall not be unreasonably withheld.”
Head-to-head record has been used since 1995 to determine first place if both teams are going to the postseason. But the sides decided with the start of a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round, the difference between first place and a wild-card berth is too important to decide with a formula and a tiebreaker game would be played.
As part of the labor deal, the Houston Astros will switch to the American League for 2013, creating two 15-team leagues with three divisions each. Players wanted to change to equalize the chances for making the playoffs for every division.
Eight of 30 baseball teams have made the playoffs under the format that began in 1995, a year later than intended because of a strike that wiped out the postseason in ’94. The postseason included just the league winners from 1903-68, then increased to four teams in 1969.
In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In both the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 teams advance to the postseason.
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