By Rich Coutinho
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Major League Baseball has approved their new playoff format and all I can say is that they got it ALMOST right. I am all for a second wild card team and have even warmed up to the idea of a one-game playoff in each league. What does not sit well is this 2-3 format in the Division Series.
Think about it — you are actually punishing the teams with top records in their leagues by converting the 2-2-1 format to a 2-3 format for 2012. The reason I say this is most teams with inferior records, if given the choice would prefer have Games 1 & 2 at home then Games 3 & 4 knowing that in either scenario Game 5 is on the road. You could hold serve at home and put a tremendous amount of pressure on a 100-win team and it is further incomprehensible to me that it is more than likely that a 100-win team will not get a home playoff game until the third game of their postseason.
To me, MLB needed to either keep the 2-2-1 format or simply wait until 2013 to execute these changes. I am not naive enough to think that the almighty dollar was not the driving force here — more specifically how much money can be made on giving ESPN, for instance, the right to televise the two one-game playoffs. It also allows MLB the chance to capitalize on the drama of last year by “creating the drama” by having these 2 do or die games.
All along MLB said that this new format would place a heavier importance on winning the division. For the most part, I agreed with them but in 2012 that importance is diluted because the “wild card play-in winner” won’t have to travel for Game 1 but the team that finished with a higher record will. I think in future years when they return to 2-2-1 their objectives will be reached but the 2012 playoffs will be incongruent in my opinion.
I can only imagine what will happen if a team with 100 wins, like say the Yankees for instance, has to play Anaheim in their ALDS and have to travel cross-country while Anaheim gets to sleep in their own beds. And The Yankees will not know that until the “play-in” game is completed. For argument sake, lets say they finish 10 games ahead in the standings of the Angels. I am sure that will put Randy Levine on his soapbox — and rightfully so.
For Met fans, I think it is good because that 90 win plateau that has pretty guaranteed a post-season berth will fall to the 86-88 win range. That means 10 games over 500 puts you in the wild card race. I think it makes it better for the Mets and other teams in the NL East to think they could finish third in the division and still possibly gain an invitation to the post-season.
Like I said MLB got it ALMOST right — and will have nailed it correctly by 2013.
Did the MLB get it right? Leave a comment below.