Monday, October 24, 2011

Does baseball really need more postseason?

US Presswire photo
Rangers Ballpark hosted the World Series over the weekend.
If you haven't been watching baseball over the last three weeks, what's wrong with you? You've been missing out on one of the most compelling postseasons this sport has experienced in quite a while.

After some fantastic showdowns in both the Division Series and League Championship Series, I was worried the World Series would be a letdown. Turns out I had nothing to fear, because this Fall Classic has been ... well, a real classic so far.

Thanks to Derek Holland's brilliant pitching performance last night, the Rangers knotted the series back up at two games a piece, ensuring this will go at least six games and setting up the distinct possibility of the first seven-game World Series since the Angels and Giants did it in 2002.

Seriously, if you've ignored this series (for whatever reason) it's time to join the fun. You'll be glad you did.

That said, I will admit that following baseball this month has been an exhausting experience. There have been a whole lot of games and a whole lot of late nights, and I can certainly understand how anyone might feel fatigued by it all at this point.

Which makes me wonder why exactly Major League Baseball is so intent on adding yet another round to the postseason in the coming years.

If you haven't been following this storyline, Bud Selig (with the support of his "special committee for on-field matters") is pushing hard to add another wild-card to each league. It's probably too late for the change to be made in time for the 2012 season, but 2013 certainly looks like it's in play.

How would it work? Well, that's still to be determined, but the most likely scenario would have the two wild-cards from each league facing each other in a preliminary round, with the three division winners earning a bye into the Division Series. But in order to keep those division champs from sitting around with nothing to do for a week -- not to mention keeping the World Series from stretching into November -- that preliminary round would be decided either in a best-of-three series or even in a one-game playoff.

Now, I'm as big a fan of one-game playoffs as you'll find. Nothing can match the intensity and drama of a do-or-die ballgame, and I love that baseball uses that showdown when teams end the regular season tied. But I think I've got a problem with one game deciding which of two actual playoff clubs gets to advance, especially when you consider this format would prevent one playoff team from each league getting the opportunity to host a game.

On the other hand, I do like the notion of giving the three division champs a bit of a bonus over the wild-cards, though I also worry that having 10 of 30 major-league teams advance to the postseason would potentially destroy the kind of thrilling September pennant race we experienced this year. Instead of that incredible Wednesday night of drama in four different cities, all of the contending clubs would have already clinched their spots in the postseason.

There's another major change that is likely to be instituted along with the playoff expansion: The relocation of one NL franchise (most likely the Houston Astros) to the AL to ensure both leagues have the same number of teams. The domino effect of that move, though, will be the need for at least one interleague game to played every day of the season (because both leagues would have 15 teams, an odd number).

Do we really want to see an interleague matchup on Opening Day? Or worse, during the final series of the year?

Back to the expanded postseason plan. If you're a Nationals fan, you may find yourselves supporting this change, because it would give your team a better chance of making the playoffs. For the first time in baseball history, a third-place team could advance to the postseason.

The question is: Do you want that? Do you want the Nationals to reach the postseason for the first time by finishing third in the NL East with, say, 88 wins? And how would you then feel if the entire postseason experience consisted of a one-game playoff in Atlanta, preventing you from being able to attend a playoff game in the District (unless, of course, they advanced)?

Whether you like it or not, all signs point to this change being enacted in time for the 2013 season. Which means that in all likelihood, those of us who love postseason baseball are going to have to prepare ourselves for even more late nights and even more potential for fatigue before the World Series ever begins.

Guess I better start stocking up on caffeine now.


NTP Nate said...

Does baseball need more postseason? Of course not. Does football need an 18-game regular season? Does basketball need owners and players bickering over the division of the last 3% of the revenue?

It's been a long time (maybe never) since a professional sports league made decisions based on what's good for the sport or the fans. This change will generate revenue, so it will happen sooner rather than later. Welcome to the big leagues.

markfd said...

Baseball should not become hockey or the NBA and let more teams in the postseason. This postseason has been great. Bud Selig should not fix what is not broken.

Anonymous said...

It's really really dumb. The postseason is already way too random. The best teams from the regular season lose their advantage (ie bench, 4th and 5th starters) in short series. The LDS and LCS should both be 7 game sets with one day off just like the regular season. The WS should be a 9 game series. Problem solved.

N. Cognito said...

Watching the baseball post-season? Here are the reasons I rarely watch.

1. Nats are not in it.
2. Games start too late.
3. Baseball on TV is slow enough - most post-season games crawl.
4. Joe Buck
5. Tim McCarver

Can I please stop hearing that Mike Napoli has the best batting average in baseball since the All-Star break!!!!

And people want to add more games!

Eugene in Oregon said...

I am not in favor of adding an additional wild card team or using any sort of one-game (or even three-game) wild card series. Better to have the kind of four-in-one-night magic we had on the last day of the regular season. Instead of an extra series, I would much prefer making the divisional series best of seven.

On the other hand, I am not at all concerned with the notion of daily inter-league games. In fact, I think the curiosity of inter-league play has completely worn off and the supposed appeal of the week- (or more) long blocs of inter-league games has dissipated entirely. They've become routine. And they break up the flow of the intra-division contests. So why not let the new routine be that there's a single inter-league series going on all the time? Particularly if it evens up the numbers in a way that makes sense and produces a much fairer overall apportionment of teams per division?

My biggest complaint is the notion of moving the Astros to the AL. The team that should move (back) is the Brewers. But Selig would never let that happen.

Kevin Rusch, Section406 said...

I agree, this many teams is fine.

HOWEVER, I _do_ think someone should move to the NL and have 6 divisions of 5 teams each. It just makes more sense. Interleague is old enough that the novelty of an interleague session has worn off (especially if that session includes Pirates/Astros or something stupid). Just go ahead and make the move, and while you're at it, bring the balances closer together. It makes sense in September to play your own division more, but 18 games against each division and 6 out-of-division is just absurd.

Drew8 said...

I've been watching the games and have enjoyed the caliber of play -- that DP that Andrus started the other night was a doozy.

That said, I hate the idea of further diluting the product.

The beauty of the long season is that the best teams win. I don't want baseball to cheapen the result.

P.S. After nine games in the AFL, Derek Norris is hitting .290, with a dandy .395 on base percentage.

Harper's average has inched up to .214, with an on base mark of .313. He's played 11 games.

Doc said...

N. Cognito and the other posters said it for me.

If Bud "The $18 Million Man" Selig and his gang of money grubbers want to make more money, then maybe they should increase the size of hot dogs and sell them for twice as much.

There's little real sport merit for increasing the playoff teams!

natsfan1a said...

I've been watching the postseason games for several weeks (yawn) and would be fine with keeping the number of teams as-is. I *really* don't like the idea of a one-game wildcard playoff (although I have enjoyed watching one-game tiebreakers within divisions . Hey, I can be capricious if I want to - I'm a fan :-)).

I'm too tired to tackle the team move issue right now, so I'll leave that one to the rest of y'all. (What day is it, anyway?)

FS said...

The best post-season format was AL's #1 team facing off against NL's #1 team. Both winners came out on top after going through a grueling schedule. So yes, any other format is second to this. Realistically speaking, we can not possibly go back to that format because of the number of teams and divisions we have.

In favor of adding one more wild card, one could argue that fans would have opposed the idea of wild card if it was proposed in Oct 1951 (imagine a world without 'shot heard 'round the world'). I believe baseball can remain competitive enough to survive one more wild card team. I don't like the idea, but I think baseball will adjust and we will still have thrilling baseball to look forward to in September.

The main problem with adding one more wild card is how to keep these teams at a disadvantage against division winners. Adding more games in October seems kind of pointless at this stage, without shortening the season.

My main issue with recent changes is inter-league games throughout the season. I consider inter-league as meaningless baseball. We play in our leagues to determine the best team in NL. What's the point of inter-league games? besides adjusting the schedule? Either MLB add one more team to each league (that's a bigger question with respect to having enough talent for two more teams) or keep it as it is and not move Astros. I am opposed to 15-team leagues even if it is not balanced.

sjm308 said...

Mark: you kind of asked what we wanted. Here is what I "want". It will NEVER HAPPEN, but its what I want.
1. I want all teams to play baseball the way it was originally played. Pitchers hit, no dh. National League baseball for everyone! That way the move to another league is not as traumatic for anyone.(and I do think there should be 6 equal divisions)
2. I want a 154 game schedule so that the playoffs can actually start before there is a chance of snow. If we can't have that, why not have one double header every two weeks which would again push the season to an earlier close.
3. I do not want any additional playoff games or teams added. Its fine the way it is and this has been great baseball. Unlike someone earlier, I love the upsets and the fact that some of the better teams are not in the World Series. That's what makes the playoffs exciting and if you don't like the favorites losing you probably don't like the first week of the NCAA basketball either.

Again, none of the things I "want" will happen. Its all about the money unfortunately and the owners will never give back 8 games or approve the double headers, and the players will never give up that stupid dh position for their aging players to fade into the sunset making millions and millions as they sit in the dugout except for 4 at bats.

thats all I got today people.

go Nats!!

N. Cognito said...

sjm308 said...
In regards to the DH:
"That way the move to another league is not as traumatic for anyone."

I appreciate your view, but don't you think traumatic is a bit dramatic?

sjm308 said...

No, I am serious. Are you saying that if the Nationals were forced to move to the American League that it would not be something that affects both players, fans and even the owners. Nothing dramatic about it. If you have been rooting for a team as long as the Houston fans have it will be a big switch. Maybe exciting, maybe negative but certainly emotional (at least in my opinion), therefor I used the word traumatic. If you like emotional better then go for that. Its not just something that occurs on a whim. I would hope that it happens but I am betting there will be lots of ranting by whichever team is moved.

DFL said...

No. The post-season should be shortened to two teams in each league with one Eastern and one Western Division. With baseball season concluding so deep into football season, very few sports fans really even care about the current World Series.

Anonymous said...

What I want -- two divisions, with a League Championship and World Series only -- will never happen because of money. But this format would eliminate all the 'inequity' because each NL team would be in an 8 team division and each AL team would be in a 7 team division.

The other thing I want is earlier game times, particularly on weekends. Why does a game have to start at 8:15 eastern on a Sunday night? NFL? Perhaps baseball should quit catering to football and demand that its championship series be played on its own terms, and not the terms of another sport.

Finally, I really am growing wearing of football references in the WORLD SERIES. What does a meaningless NFL regular season game between Dallas and St. Louis have to do with the World Series? Yet it was referred to ad nauseum by Buck and McCarver (and even the MLB Network crews) yesterday. Was the last Super Bowl telecast peppered with references to the Brewers and Pirates? No. I didn't think so.

sjm308 said...

DFL, sports fans might not care but Baseball Fans do care. I did not even use the clicker last night with an NFL game on, and obviously that is not a great test, but I did not find out the football was a blowout until after the baseball game. I am well aware that football is the number one spectator sport and has passed baseball by far but there are still some of us old-timers that just like baseball better.

natsfan1a said...

What is this "football" that DFL speaks of?

With baseball season concluding so deep into football season, very few sports fans really even care about the current World Series.

NatsLady said...

I hope with the excitement of this year's September that Selig rethinks "fixing" the playoff system. True, it might be more equitable with another wildcard, but what could have been better from a fan's point of view?

Also, I don't mind the All-Star game determining the home field advantage, I like the "randomness" of it. Don't like the DH AT ALL, but I guess we will have to live with it.

Eugene in Oregon said...

natsfan1a said: I *really* don't like the idea of a one-game wildcard playoff (although I have enjoyed watching one-game tiebreakers within divisions . Hey, I can be capricious if I want to - I'm a fan :-)).
That's not at all capricious; a one-game tiebreaker is just that -- one additional game when 162 have produced an exact tie.

But a one-game wild card play-in 'series' would potentially pit two teams with very different records against each other. I just looked back over all the wild card race in the 2000s and there are a number of examples of six-, eight- and even a couple of 10-game differences between the wild card team and the runner-up. If a team is six or seven or eight games better than the next in line, is it fair -- in baseball -- to have a single game play-in?

sjm308 - Agree fully with your points (1) and (2), especially getting rid of the DH. And that should apply to the minor leagues and college ball, as well.

The Great Unwashed said...

Some food for thought:

Adding two more wild card teams to make it ten teams in the postseason means that there’s a roughly 33% chance that you make it to the postseason and a 66% chance that you don’t. That’s still pretty good selectivity between the teams that make it versus the teams that don’t. It’s not the NBA, where more than half the teams make it to the playoffs.

Everyone was enamored over the last day of the regular season. I know I was, but realistically, the moons had to align just right -- even under the current playoff format -- for that scenario to happen in the first place. So the argument that adding two more teams to the playoffs would prevent that from ever happening again is at least mitigated by the fact that the last day of this season was an unusual circumstance that may never happen again.

On the flip side, the current playoff format de-emphasizes winning your division. Yes, division winners still get a 3-2 home game split, but you’re still playing a five game divisional series like everyone else. Adding a wild card only round would make teams play to win their division because they’d want to avoid the potential of a single elimination game that comes with the wild card round.

If the first round is a one game playoff, it adds only two games to the potential 41 other games in the postseason. That’s not exactly adding a lot more games. If you make it so that the wild card teams play the day following the regular season, the rest of the postseason wouldn’t be delayed at all. In the event there is a one game playoff to determine one of the wild card teams, that’s still only one more game, and it just adds to the excitement of the postseason.

What’s the difference between a one game playoff that’s officially part of the postseason and a one game playoff between two teams that ended the regular season tied? Both scenarios are still technically postseason baseball, whether it’s termed that way or not.

I would have NO PROBLEM with the Nats making the playoffs as a third place team. For starters, how often has a wild card team made it to the World Series, much less won it? The odds are pretty good that they’d be competitive, regardless of their seeding. Second, every team would have the opportunity to be the 10th team in the playoffs, so if you make it, you deserve to be there. Using a football analogy, the Steelers were the 6th seed to make the playoffs after the 2008 season. They had to play all of their playoff games on the road, yet they ended up winning the Super Bowl. Does that mean they didn’t deserve it? You could even make the argument that it was more exciting given that they had a bigger mountain to climb. It would be the same in baseball.

And finally, if you want to avoid the “trauma” of interleague play, either make every team have a DH or eliminate it. Realistically, with baseball’s union as strong as it is, the DH will never be eliminated. So you’d have to have every team have a DH (in my opinion, yuk) but let’s face it, the whole interleague squabble is about the DH. In my opinion, it’s asinine that the two leagues play under different rules while under the umbrella of Major League Baseball, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

baseballswami said...

This has been a really awesome post-season but I, too, am fatigued with the late games. Last year there was a west coast team in it, though. I don't know how I feel about another wild card - look at st louis -- for most of September, they might have been that team and they might win the whole thing. Would that have made the playoffs diluted? If the Red Sox and Braves still got in , would that have made it diluted? If it only adds a few days then I guess it doesn't matter. I loved the four games in one crazy night and the big name teams collapsing and getting knocked out. I also would not even dream of turning the channel to the "no fun league" - not everybody cares about that sport, or even the particular game that is on at that time. I love the home field advantage from the all star game and at first everyone didn't like that - some things you just get used to. I cannot wait to see what happens next - I don't even have a prediction it's so random. Anybody else care to go out on a limb?

NatinBeantown said...

The biggest fan reason for adding the extra WC team is that it would allow more teams to be competitive late into the year. It would allow teams like Baltimore and Toronto (perenially "blocked" by high-payroll teams) a backdoor into the playoffs.

This is the same reason I'm most against it. Say both WCs come from the same division. So one team, over a 162-game season, beats out another team, perhaps by several games. The loser gets a one-game playoff to steal the LDS berth? That's ridiculous.

No extra playoff team.
Shorten the season to 154 games.
Contract two teams (Oakland and Tampa, two teams with little actual fanbase or revenue, propped up by mad genius GMs)
Make interleague an every 4th year event against geographical rivals only

N. Cognito said...

baseballswami said...
"Anybody else care to go out on a limb?"

Not while you're holding the saw.

NatinBeantown said...

captcha was "unnizon," as in, we should all say "no extra wild cards!" in unnizon.

N. Cognito said...

A one game playoff (or even multiple game playoff) to break a tie to see who makes the playoffs are not technically playoff games. They are regular season games with the results appearing on the final standings and the stats included in the season stats.
Essentially, they are playoff games.

The Great Unwashed said...

N. Cognito,

Okay, you got me on a technicality. My statement was more rhetorical in nature and meant to be interpreted as a one-game playoff is the same as a one game wild card in terms of the winner getting to advance.

I went out on a limb, but I guess I'm in the minority on this one.

Anonymous said...

This hair-brained scheme will just end up entending the season for another week so the teams can play in even colder weather. Selig finally is going to fix the glaring problem of having 16 teams in the NL and 14 in the AL. Now he needs to fix two other problems before he worries about extending the playoffs. Firstly, standardize the designated hitter situation. Either have it for both leagues or don't have it at all. Secondly, cease having the winner of the All Star game gain the home field advantage for the World Series. That advantage should belong to the team with the best record.

N. Cognito said...

"Selig finally is going to fix the glaring problem of having 16 teams in the NL and 14 in the AL."

How is it a glaring problem?

"Firstly, standardize the designated hitter situation. Either have it for both leagues or don't have it at all."

Why? How is this a problem?

"...cease having the winner of the All Star game gain the home field advantage for the World Series. That advantage should belong to the team with the best record."

Agree. What amounts to an exhibition game shouldn't determine who gets home field advantage in the WS.

natsfan1a said...

Agree re. the All Star game but also find it somewhat amusing that the pitcher who gave up the dinger that led to home field advantage for the NL team is starting for the AL Rangers in the Serious.

NatsJack in Florida said...

N. Cognito....Surely, you have to acknowledge that there is something inherently wrong where a sport automatically sends division winners to the playoffs and in one league a team only needs to beat out 3 others and in the other a team has to beat out 5 others. Balancing the leagues fixes that inequity.

And don't even get me started on the difference between National League BASEBALL and that 10 man Sunday Church League game played by the Junior Circuit.

Mark'd said...

Hockey has 30 teams and more than 1/2 make the playoffs. It's truly a joke to call making the hockey postseason a BIG accomplishment. When a losing record can put you I'm the postseason, it becomes a joke.

Baseball won't have this problem adding 2 teams if they stop with 10 teams.

Mark'd said...

Raymitten, the NFL game was promoted because it was a NFC game broadcasted on FOX. Just like those covert ads they ran during the game showing Fox stars of TV shows. That's advertising. Star Spangled Banner sung by Zooey Dechanel of Fox new show.

Stew Magnuson said...

Does anyone know why Buck and McCarver were talking about Sprockets during a World Series game last night?

That reminds me. Start the games earlier for us old farts and get rid of McCarver. That would make me happy. But people have been making those same two complaints for years, and nothing ever happens.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I take just one of those for now, Stew.... preferably "Dump McCarver" as he compounds the whole falling asleep issue.

N. Cognito said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
"N. Cognito....Surely, you have to acknowledge that there is something inherently wrong where a sport automatically sends division winners to the playoffs and in one league a team only needs to beat out 3 others and in the other a team has to beat out 5 others. Balancing the leagues fixes that inequity."

On THAT argument, I agree. But 16 in one and 14 in the other, by itself, I don't see as a problem.

"And don't even get me started on the difference between National League BASEBALL and that 10 man Sunday Church League game played by the Junior Circuit."

Other than citing personal preference, I've never heard or read a good argument on why MLB should or should not have the DH, nor why both Leagues have to be the same. I don't care if one or both Leagues have or do not have the DH.

Anonymous said...

Tim McCarver is an old guy, but he manages to stay awake until the end of the game. Why can't the rest of you whining old guys?

NatsJack in Florida said...

as I said.... McCarver!.... compound... sleep.... duuhh.

dabassguy1 said...

They were talking about sprockets cause Dirk Nowitski mentioned them in his appearance. Evidently it was a Saturday Night Live skit reference. I didn't get it either as I don't watch much non sports TV.

Drew8 said...

Around the time that the Berlin Wall fell, Mike Myers came up with "Sprockets" his send up of an uptight West German talk show.

The signature line was the coda: "And now we dance."

Anonymous said...

If they're going to put an NL Central team back in the AL, it should be the Brewers, since that's where they came from. Put 'em back where you found 'em!

Wally said...

Phillies declined their option on Oswalt. He is now a free agent. Would really like to see him join the Nats on a 2 yr deal. Here is a write up from Fangraphs about him that I found interesting.

jd said...


I agree. That would be a real nice addition and a nice bridge until some of: Cole,Meyer or Purke arrive.

Wally said...

JD - by the way, Norris heating up a little in AFL. Hugely small sample size, but nice to see anyway.

jd said...

Baseball along with other sports has to start using their heads. Outside of Texas and St.Louis and a few other small pockets of Baseball diehards no one gives a damn about the world series this deep into the football season. The TV ratings are beyond atrocious; The WS is getting clobbered by every CSI and NCIS show not to mention all the reality Dreck on prime time.

I think they need to reintroduce the Sunday scheduled double headers (they can charge 1.5 times a regular ticket) and have the series wrap up late September or early October the way it used to.

Anonymous said...

Here's a solution.

1, expand to 32 teams, so each league has 16 teams.

2, schedule at least 3 day/night doubleheaders per team per season. 6 would be better - one a month - which should free up the 3-4 days needed for the added "wild card round" as well as another off day or two per team per year, which is handy for makeup games.

Just sayin' said...

Anon @ 7:44 p.m.: Unless you go to four four-team divisions or two eight-team divisions per league, 16 teams per league doesn't really help.

Gonat said...

Wally said...
Phillies declined their option on Oswalt. He is now a free agent. Would really like to see him join the Nats on a 2 yr deal. Here is a write up from Fangraphs about him that I found interesting.

October 24, 2011 6:18 PM

Well this is certainly getting interesting!

Anonymous said...

Just Sayin,

What would be any different with the AL having 16 teams when the NL already has 16? The main reason they would want to make each league 15 teams - which means more interleague games and interleague all season long - is because, in the AL, if 5 teams make the playoffs, it does water the quality down. 5 of 14 instead of 5 of 16 teams.

There's no need to go to 4-team divisions, although if they would eliminate interleague games completely, I would advocate going to 2 8-team divisions per league. With the unbalanced schedule, to make that alignment work, you would need those 15 or 18 interleague games back for divisional series.

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