More Playoffs May Be Good Thing For Wrong Reason
June 6, 2011

It's not a topic that's getting a lot of headlines lately, but it's coming. Starting perhaps as early as next season, Major League Baseball will have more playoff teams. Commissioner Bud Selig has said that both the owners and players favor an additional wild card team in each league. That means out of 30 big league clubs, ten of them would make the playoffs instead of the current eight.

If you ask Selig about the move, he'll tell you that baseball has the fewest number of teams that qualify for the postseason, and that more is better. He's wrong about that of course. Part of the beauty of baseball is that the regular season means something. In the NBA and NHL, 16 teams make the playoffs. In the 1970s and early 80s, the NBA had 23 teams in the league, but still 16 teams qualified. The NHL only had 21 teams, which meant only five clubs did NOT make the playoffs. More is not better.

In the last couple of seasons, I have come to the conclusion that the wild card is a bad idea (gasp!). I know the wild card is widely popular, but hear me out. It's not the wild card that helped, it was realigning to three divisions in each league (along with that, came the wild card). This would never happen of course because of money, but had they gone to three divisions without the wild card, the team with the best record in each league would have a first round bye, and an automatic bid into the League Championshp Series. The other two division winners would play in the League Division Series. Result? Instead of having the Yankees and Red Sox both in the playoffs almost every year, the two would have to battle it out for the division title.

So here's where Selig's change could be a positive. The plan is to add one wild card to each league. The two wild card teams would play each other in either a best-of-three series, or a winner-take-all game while the division winners got a bye. That would give teams extra motivation to win their division, and avoid chancing an early upset. That could mean that both the Yanks and the Sox would be in, but one would have to play an early round game or series, and the other would not.

I don't know Mr. Selig of course, but I don't think he's thought of this. I believe his only thought is “more teams, more money” and “the other leagues do it”. There are more problems that would arise from two added teams. Remember last year, when the Giants, Padres, and Braves came very close to a three-way tie for the postseason? Imagine how hectic it would be if you had even more teams in the running for another spot.

I do like the idea that winning a division means something, so even though that's not the reason Mr. Selig wants to expand the playoffs, maybe it still could work.

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