Coutinho: Did Bud Selig Get It Right With The New Playoff Format?

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.

  • CliffG

    MLB’s hodge-podge of “Division Championship” rivalries, Wild Card rivalries and Interleague Exhibition games (What is the common “prize”?) is nothing more that disconnect meaningless “contest” in a total Post-season. With Pennant Races every team is playing meaningful games all season long—especially in September.

    Baseball fans understand baseball IS Pennant Races and great World Series. I suspect that fans who need to see their team playing meaningful games in September are really football fans in disguise. Why don’t they try and watch a football game over the next 6 month—when Pennant Races are meant to be heating up!

  • CliffG

    They got it right? MLB has been going down this EXTREMELY wrong path since 1969 when they divided into two divisions per league and lost a big part of their historic nature…Season long Pennant Races and a stand alone World Series as the best postseason “format” in the professional sports universe.

    Is it safe to say that MLB in 1968 was a shining example of why “Baseball” was our “National Pastime”? I can telll you this, MLB’s so called “surging popularity” has been going way down hill since then. Check the numbers. A sport that was far and away the most popular sport in 1968 was a point behind football in 1984, 11 point behind it 2011. Wikipedia’s listing of the World Series ratings shows a similar story. Since 1985 MLB’s ratings (total households watching) for the W.S. has slipped 50%, 33% since 1994 said they were starting the Wild Card—SO THEY COULD COMPETE WITH THE NFL in September and October.

    This new wrinkle to the Floating Crap Game started in 1994 just adds another 2 chances to an operation that demands accountablity with a public disclosure of the probable odds for contention of the 8 (soon to be 10?) postseason slots. This is all that’s left of the Grand Dame formly known as the National Pastime—162 game first round of a 7 month postseason tournament.

    Losers never win. Cheaters never prosper. Looks like this Scam operation is ripe for Bunco Squad pickins.

    • Walt Gekko

      If anything, Selig didn’t go far enough:

      Selig should have added TWO Wild Cards per league for three total and made it so those and the team with the with the worst record of the division champions would have to play in the Wild Card round. That would in most cases assure the best two division winners getting a first-round bye while the team with the worst record of the division champs would have to play in the single elimination first round, in turn assuring there being many more meaningful games in September/October when baseball has to compete with football (college and the NFL) in a way it didn’t back when it was just the leagues and the World Series prior to 1969.

      • CliffG

        Walt, see my reply above.

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