Friday, October 5, 2012

MLB Playoffs: What Major League Baseball Should do About the Wild Card

A little more than an hour from now, the MLB will, for the first time in its history, hold a single-game wild-card round to begin its playoffs.

I think it's a bad idea.

It's silly to me to have a playoff round that's single-elimination in baseball.  Sure, I like the tension of a one-game playoff, but every game in the regular season and playoffs, besides today's games, is part of a series.   Why, then, would you have one round of the playoffs that's sudden death?  The inconsistency just doesn't make sense to me.

So I'm proposing a solution.

In the August 29, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated, Joe Posnanski wrote a column in which he argued for MLB to re-adopt a 154-game season.

"Just about everyone in the game understands that something must be done," he wrote.  "The season is too long.  And it will probably get longer: The owners seem all but certain to add another wild-card playoff round, as early as next year.  This means that, counting spring training, regular season and postseason games, a team could end up playing some 220 games in a season."

A couple people have said to me that if they played this new wild-card round as a series the season would be too long.  And I think they're right.  So why not take Posnanski's advice and trim eight games off the regular-season schedule?  That way, you'd have enough time to fit a three-game series between each league's two wild-card teams, thereby preserving the consistency of Major League Baseball's scheduling.

I'll admit that I have a couple of reservations about this idea.  First is the fact that I'm so used to a 162-game season, it would be strange to see everyone play just 154.  But after a few years, I'm sure I'd get used to no problem there.

Second, the five-team playoff is also kind of throwing me.  But again, I'll get used to it.  Even if I wasn't going to, I don't think I have any say in the matter: They're starting it in just over an hour.

The last problem is a little more significant.  By adding a three-game series between the two wild-cards in each league, you're increasing the amount of time they'll have to play each other.  That means you're also increasing the amount of rest time for division-winners, which, depending on the circumstances, could be an advantage or a disadvantage.  It's an advantage if the team's going through a lot of injuries, but it's a disadvantage if the team is really hot and has a lot of momentum.  

I'll openly admit that I'm not sure how you would, or even could, fix this problem.  

But no matter how you slice it, if we're going to have five teams in the playoffs for each league, it's a little funny to start with a single-elimination round.  Everything else in the sport of baseball is a series, so it just doesn't make any sense to me.  

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