MLB Will Expand Playoffs, Add Two Additional Wild Card Teams This Season
The MLB Playoffs will "expand from eight to 10 teams, starting this season," according to MLB sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. Baseball's new CBA stipulated that additional wild cards "would be added in each league no later than 2013." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig "wanted the expansion to occur immediately, and management worked with the players' union to ensure the switch to a 10-team format this season." The agreement on the additional wild cards "is not yet final, and one source said there are 'still a few loose ends' to resolve." But sources said that an announcement "could occur as soon as Thursday." In the new format, each league’s three division winners "would earn a first-round bye; the Nos. 4 and 5 teams would play a game to determine the wild-card, which would then play the top-seeded division winner in the first round" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/1). ESPN's Buster Olney reports members of the MLB advisory committee have told Selig "that they felt like the wild-card teams' path through the playoffs has been too easy, and the advantage for division winners has not been great enough." Red Sox DH David Ortiz said, "One game? That's kind of crazy. ... It'd make more sense for two wild cards to play at least a two-out-of-three series while the other teams take a break for three days because they won their divisions." Red Sox RF Cody Ross: "Say you win a wild card and you have a five-game lead over the other wild card, and the other team ends up winning the game. That's going to be controversial" (ESPN.com, 3/1).
PUTS EMPHASIS ON WINNING DIVISION: FOXSPORTS.com's Rosenthal writes the "major benefit of adding a one-game, wild-card round in each league -- the increased emphasis on winning division titles -- is too important to ignore." The new format is "good for the game," and the changes will "add excitement with minimal intrusion." Teams will "scramble like crazy to win their divisions." The wild card teams will be at a "true disadvantage, burning their best pitchers in the playoff game, and maybe to qualify for that game as well" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/1). In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes the "beauty of the new system is it will make life a lot tougher for teams that win the wild card, restoring the importance of a division championship." There is "no reason a second wild-card team should reduce the final-week drama, and it might even increase it." The number of teams "grinding into September will go up, and that should be good for fans" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/1). The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein said, “It strengthens the regular season. ... It puts a premium on winning your division. So if you’re a wild-card team, then you’ve got a coin flip to really make the playoffs” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 2/29). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff writes the new format would "theoretically place more of an emphasis on winning the division than the old setup created, and it would also likely increase attendance by lowering the playoff bar" (NEWSDAY, 3/1). In Tampa, Marc Topkin writes the new format puts a "greater premium on winning the division because the two wild-card teams would first meet in what is expected to be a one-game playoff" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/1). NESN's Don Orsillo said, "You look how hard it is to get to the postseason in the past, now you’re going to have more cities more excited, longer into the season. Baseball is one of those sports that, for a lot of teams, when you’re out in July … then it’s not very exciting for the fan base. Now you’re going to have a lot more cities involved a lot longer” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 2/29). MLB Network's Larry Bowa said, “It’s great for baseball, it’s great for the fans. But there’s going to be a division -- whether it’s the AL East, NL East, or NL Central -- where three teams are going to come out of there" (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 2/29).
WILL IT RUIN THE DRAMA? ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian said the move is good for MLB because another playoff team in each league is "really going to ramp it up a little bit and puts greater importance on winning the division title, which is extremely important." Kurkjian: "The only danger is that last Wednesday of the season last year -- the greatest night in baseball history -- might not have meant so much if we knew that night that Boston and Tampa Bay were getting in that night no matter what” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 2/29). SportsNet N.Y.’s Adam Schein said, “I know I'm in the minority here, but I hate it. I think it will ruin the drama that we had in Game 162 last year. I feel terrible for the wild card team that has the gaudy record that has to play the team that won 85 games.” SportsNet N.Y.’s Chris Carlin: “But it doesn’t ruin the drama. It increases the drama. Bud Selig is doing a good job with this because the two wild cards play one game, it creates more excitement. Game 162 could be exciting. Then, Game 163 between the two Wild Card teams could be very exciting.” Schein: “But that one game is too fluky. I don't think it's fair to that wild card team that accumulates all the wins in the regular season” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet N.Y., 2/29).
CAN'T PLEASE EVERYBODY: In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes under the header, "Baseball Playoff Expansion A Bad Move." Purdy writes Selig is a "convenient punching bag whenever baseball makes a policy alteration. Often, he doesn't deserve it. This time, he does. Selig had so many other options here. The best would have been to leave well enough alone" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/1). ESPN.com's Jemele Hill wrote under the header, "Eight Is Enough For MLB Playoffs." Even if the proposed postseason changes "increase the importance of winning the division, they will come at the expense of the regular season, which would be diminished." If MLB is "bored and looking for things to tweak, how about reducing the 162-game regular-season schedule?" (ESPN.com, 2/29). In S.F., Henry Schulman wrote, "I don’t like the idea that a team can fight for 162 games over six months, after six weeks of spring training, only to reach the postseason and be eliminated in one game. ... I understand the arguments for the format. It puts a higher premium on winning your division and creates some do-or-die excitement. But it also will create the kind of heartbreak that no team should have to endure after the grind of a baseball season" (SFGATE.com, 2/29).