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Volume 21 No. 2
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Expanded playoffs seen as potential boon

As baseball’s competitive balance has improved considerably over the past decade, shown in part by nine different teams winning the last 10 World Series, so has industry revenue, reaching a league record $7 billion in 2010, and overall fan interest. Therein lie key motivations for expanding MLB’s playoff format to include an extra set of wild-card teams.

“The wild card has worked out far better than I ever dreamed,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said last fall of an expanded postseason. “Eight [playoff teams] is a very fair number. So is 10.”

Currently, three division winners and a wild-card team each from the American and National leagues advance to the playoffs. But there is growing conceptual consensus that enlarging the playoffs could prove a further boon for the sport. But many troubling questions still lie in the details, particularly with regard to logistics and scheduling.

The league is looking for a way to add an extra set of wild-card teams to the playoffs.
MLB this year abandoned its traditional Sunday night start to the regular season in order to begin and end the 2011 campaign sooner, and avoid playing World Series games in November for the third consecutive year. The league last year also condensed the league championship series schedules in order to remove off days thought to be unneeded.

So the key question is how best to bring in more teams and games into October without creating many of the same problems. Among the potential scenarios: having two wild-card teams in each league play each other in an initial knockout round, with the winner facing the division champion with the best overall record.

A larger playoff structure has been one of the foremost topics under review over the past year by Selig’s 14-person Special Committee for On-Field Matters, a handpicked group composed of league executives, managers and general managers. In another sign of improved relations between MLB and the union, the league has regularly updated MLBPA executives on the activities of that management committee, said MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest in the playoff subject among the players, and there have been a wide variety of views,” said Weiner, who also has shown some support for extending the current five-game division series to seven games. “But it’s about much more than just the playoffs. We’re going to be looking at the entire calendar from the very beginning of spring training to the end of the playoffs and everything in between.”

Players have the upper hand?
Which party holds more power within each of the following sports leagues?


Not sure/
no response

NBA 26%
Source: Turnkey Sports Poll, March 2011. The survey, conducted by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal, covers more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.