SBD/October 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bud Selig Praised For "Appeal And Equity" Created By MLB's New Postseason Format

Wild Card Game marks Selig's second change in MLB's postseason format
For "all of the strife" in the tenure of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, he has overseen two expansions of the league's playoff format and "both have succeeded," according to Tyler Kepner of the N.Y. TIMES. Selig will "watch from home Friday as his latest legacy item, the wild-card play-in game, unfolds in Atlanta and Arlington." Selig said, "When I did the first one, there was a lot of criticism. I was very confident, but you just never know, and it worked out better than I thought. This one, after the end of last year, there were people who said, ‘Why do you want to change?’ But I have to say, it’s worked out better than I ever would have dreamed.” Kepner notes because the '12 MLB schedule had been finalized before the playoffs were expanded, the league "had to shoehorn the wild-card games into October, leaving room for only one day off in the division series." That means the higher-seeded teams "will open on the road for Games 1 and 2 before hosting the final three games." Next year, the division series "will return to the preferred 2-2-1 format." Selig "could have waited until 2013 to add the extra wild cards." But he said that "he was glad he did not." Selig: "I know the schedule was made out, and I know it’s going to be better in ’13. But I’m so grateful I did it. All the clubs wanted it, and I wanted it" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/5). In Denver, Troy Renck wrote MLB "has long been accused of letting tradition impede progress," and the league is "slow to change." But MLB "has done something right with the one-game, wild-card cage matches." The new format "creates appeal and equity." Baseball "will never be football, the country's weekly holiday." But the sport "has created drama with the elimination games, providing must-see TV" (DENVER POST, 10/3).

LOVIN' EVERY MINUTE OF IT: Baseball HOFer and TBS analyst Cal Ripken Jr. said of the new MLB postseason format, "I hear the arguments about, 'You spend all season making the playoffs, it should get you more than one playoff game,' but I think it is handicapped in the right way because it puts an emphasis on winning the division, which is fantastic. These final games mattered, between the Yankees and Orioles, Rangers and A's, instead of seeing teams playing out the string" (L.A. TIMES, 10/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote, "I find myself wholly satisfied by wild-card teams entering at a disadvantage, thrilled by the fight in the American League to win divisions and in the National League to jockey for home-field advantage, and entranced by the chaos that could've been." Passan: "I'm almost to the point where I can stomach the idea of the one-game playoff because of all the ancillary benefits the format provides. Almost" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/4). In Newark, Jeff Bradley reported Yankees GM Brian Cashman "was a major advocate of MLB's new playoff setup." Despite the Yankees narrowly avoiding the AL Wild Card Game in its first year, Cashman said that he is "on board with the new rules." Cashman: "The rule changes that were put in place were to make the division championship matter. So, yeah, it matters. We have lived through it when it didn't make any difference if you won the wild card or the division champ. We were Exhibit A to that. ... Baseball made some necessary changes" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/2). In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes the new format "is not perfect," but that complaint is "insignificant compared to the way that Bud Selig’s 10-team playoff concept played out, with 20 of 30 teams still alive as September unfolded" (TORONTO STAR, 10/5).

NO SIR, I DON'T LIKE IT: In San Diego, Matt Calkins wrote, "This pastime of ours is supposed to be the most gimmick-proof sport we've got," but MLB is "handing out postseason berths like a Costco sample lady." When it comes to the playoffs, "there's apparently no denying in baseball, either." Given the length of the 162-game regular season "and the variables surrounding the game, allowing 10 playoff participants is borderline communism." This season's "ploy may be the tackiest yet." Calkins: "Baseball needs six months to flush out the league's elite, so to have it come down to one game for four teams after they've ground through 162? It's the equivalent of stopping a marathon after 26.1 miles, reconvening the top two runners a week later, and having them sprint the final tenth" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/3). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "That one-game do-or-die wild-card playoff might be entertaining for fans and television executives, but for teams, it's for the birds." The team with the best record in each league will open the division series with two road games against the winner of that league's Wild Card Game because "it is believed that hosting the final three games of a best-of-five series is preferable to opening with the first two." Gay: "I don't completely see the logic" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/5).
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