After shying away from the subject for years, Selig is open to expanding the Major League playoffs to include more teams, and he believes it could happen as soon as the 2011 season.
The first reaction that comes to mind, after watching a postseason that seems like it started three months ago in baseball, is why would there be any reason to expand the postseason to even more teams.
Major League Baseball has already done enough damage by allowing networks like TBS and FOX to ruin the pace of baseball by twisting the schedule to involve what feels like more off days than game days. When the teams are playing, fans of smaller market teams better have days left off in their vacation budget, because their games begin around noon. To top it off, there is no need to rush to the refrigerator in between innings. Instead of a quick break, the networks take the liberty of squeezing in even more advertising between innings, during pitching changes, and every single other possible moment.
How long ago does it feel like the Reds were eliminated? How about the Rays? Keep in mind that baseball currently only has four teams from each league making the playoffs.
If the Rangers are able to crawl back into this World Series, a potential game seven will be played on November 4th. That's right, most kids will have already come off of their Halloween sugar high's before the baseball season comes to completion.
What Major League Baseball is proposing is adding another wild card team to the mix from each league. The two wild card teams would then play each other in a best-of-three series that would determine who moves on. It sounds great in principle. The excitement of a team throwing everything they have at a win-or-go-home scenario sounds fun. However, there are some serious issues that need to be factored in.
First, with the World Series already dragging into November, the prospect of a World Series game in mid-November in Detroit, Minneapolis, or Denver does not sound appealing to anyone. Late October is already pushing it in many cities.
Second, if Wild Card A and Wild Card B take a day off when the regular season ends, another day off for travel from site A to site B in between games two and three, then another day off to travel from game three location to game one of their next round, the three other teams that made the postseason are already staring at a five day layoff. The last thing a team that is playing well wants to do is sit around for five days. Two days gives guys a chance to catch their breath, five means hitters lose their timing and pitchers lose their sharpness.
The third problem is possibly the biggest. After watching the Colorado Rockies try to scramble into the playoffs late in the season, only to fall short and spin out of control, it became clear that they were a team that was very good, but had not played well enough to be in the playoffs. They did not deserve to be there. Even teams like the Atlanta Braves, who won the wild card. They were a good team, but frankly, they were a borderline average team with decent pitching and no depth. Their defensive miscues were embarrassing for a team that played in October. Even Bobby Cox said at a postgame press conference, "Listen, we aren't the best team in baseball, but if we get on a streak, we can beat anyone." That statement alone should be enough to squelch plans to expand the playoffs.
With all of the negatives that go along with it, the sad reality is that, possibly as soon as 2011, Major League Baseball will have expanded the playoffs.
Why? Not because it is in the best interest of the game, not because it is in the best interest of the fans, but for one simple reason. Money.
Expanded playoffs means more people tuning in to watch the wild card duel. It means more games to sell advertising for. It means more teams who get a chance to sell tickets at a playoff rate, which means one thing. More money.
Of course baseball is a business, of course the owners, players and commissioner should be looking for new ways to bring in revenue. That is not a bad thing. However, when it comes at the expense of the quality and integrity of the game, it should be questioned.
Would having the Rockies, a team that never put it together on the field, in a three-game playoff series be a good thing? Would it have been a good thing for the Padres, who collapsed down the stretch, to be given a chance at redemption by playing the Braves in a three-game set? The answer is no. Those teams were given every chance all season long to prove that they belonged in the playoffs. The Rockies never got it together, and the Padres didn't have the longevity to make it. Plain and simple, they didn't deserve to go to the playoffs.
The last thing Major League Baseball needs is for a season that already plays twice as many games as the next closest major sport, is for fans and players to think that each and every single game doesn't really matter. Teams who are barely above .500 can kick it into cruise control in September because they know that they have a good chance at simply getting in.
Major League Baseball is the last major professional sport in America where making it to the playoffs is truly a privilege. The last thing the sport needs is to let teams that haven't earned it get in.
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