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Report: MLB likely to add Wild Card, implement one-game playoff

Sep 24, 2011, 10:22 AM EDT

Bud Selig Reuters

The MLB playoff system is about to get an overhaul.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement moving at a fast pace, the two sides have “all but agreed” to add one Wild Card team in each league.

Under this scenario, one-game playoffs will be held to determine which Wild Card team advances to the next round. The changes could be instituted as soon as next season, as the two sides hope to announce a new CBA during the World Series, but the new system will begin no later than 2013.

The big hang up with the new CBA is disagreement over how to handle the draft, especially in regard to slotting. MLB also wants to have two 15-team leagues, something that is tied up because of the sale of the Astros, who are the most likely team to move to the American League.

What’s the motivation with expanded playoffs? Well, we’re going to hear plenty about fairness and the importance of winning your division, but this is — no surprise — mostly about cash.

Management has been interested in going from eight to 10 playoff teams to create more contenders in September and to add inventory to sell to a TV network.

The TV networks generally have been uninterested in the other wild-card option — a best-of-three series — instead wanting the drama and ratings potential of a sudden-death game.

By the way, if these changes were instituted right now, the Cardinals would have a two-game lead over the Giants for the final Wild Card spot while the Rays would hold a one-game lead over the Angels.

  1. hank10 - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    Another installment from the ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It’ series.

  2. paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    This is simply retarded…..one wild card team can finish 10 games ahead of the other one…and who advances will be determined by a single game? That is moronic.

    Adding to the stupidity, now the winning WC team is likely handicapped in the next round because it used its best pitcher to win the “play-in” game. This has multiple levels of idiocy all for a modest (if any) increase in revenue.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      now the winning WC team is likely handicapped in the next round because it used its best pitcher to win the “play-in” game

      I think this is a partial benefit as many pundits have said the division winner needs some larger advantage than it currently has. Unfortunately, something that has been brought up before, what if we have a situation like this for the last week

      [use AL E]
      NYY
      Bos 1GB
      TB 6GB (5up on the WC)

      So you have NY and Bos fighting out the right to win the division and skip the WC playin game, and TB having clinched can set up their rotation?

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:52 AM

        There are much better solutions than that….there is too much chance in baseball for a single game to really determine anything about a team (indeed, a 7 game series is barely enough to determine anything conclusively other than who won the most games).

        A better solution would be for WC teams to have no home games, that rewards the team with the best record and “penalizes” the WC team for not winning their division.

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        From a sample size stand point, having 1 baseball game determine a “winner” is the equivalent of having WC teams in football suit up for one drive a piece and having the team that did better advance to the next round.

  3. cur68 - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Are Wild Card slots the new market inefficiencies or is it just society?

    • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM

      It is greedy players forcing the poor owners to do everything they can just to make ends meet.

      • cur68 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM

        ooooo, those dastards!

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

        Cur, I am pretty sure the list you just joined is going to be pretty short.

      • cur68 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        Man! I’m on so many short lists I’ve lost track. Which list is this? World’s sexiest dude (I told all those ladies, this kind of thing is sexist, but they don’t listen)? Is it the short list for best random obscure humor on a blog commentary? Maybe its the list for most long suffering Blue Jay’s fan ever? Well, whichever list it is, it can get in line unless it’s the list of guys who have Jessica Alba’s home phone number. I really want to be on that one.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        At least you’re not on the useful idiots for the rich and powerful list!

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Yep, it is the Worlds Sexiest Dudes list. Definitely not the “I can identify sarcasm list”. Nope, not that one at all. (Damn, I hope you are on the “I can identify classic irony” list).

      • JBerardi - Sep 24, 2011 at 8:09 PM

        Looks like one out of five HBT commentators understands sarcasm.

      • purnellmeagrejr - Sep 25, 2011 at 8:02 AM

        what is sarcasm, anyway?

  4. frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 24, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Everyone hates change. Everyone hated when 1 wild card was added and I think it has been great.

    Who knows with this new change, but the truth is – those one game playoffs will be fun to watch.

    • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      Of course they will be fun to watch…it is like skipping to game 7 of a series. If it is a question of “fun to watch” then have a 24 team playoff, give 8 teams a bye, and have a series of 1-game playoffs….every game would be do or die. A one game series simply doesn’t do much to determine which team is better, especially in a game constructed so that a team’s best player (or 2nd best player) may not play (if he is a pitcher). This year the Yankees were 3-3 vs. KC; and in any given game, KC would probably have about a 40-45% chance of winning.

      • brianbowman16 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM

        isn’t there 162 games BEFORE the one game wild card playoff to determine the ‘better team’?
        as long as MLB doesn’t end up like the nba where teams ten games under .500 wind up in the playoffs i could care less

    • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM

      For me, it isn’t a question of hating change. I love innovation…but innovation and change are not the same thing….just like change and progress are not the same thing, though many often conflate the two. As a baseball fan, I see nothing positive about this kind of change.

  5. Walk - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    This is lame on so many levels. Do we really need half the league in the playoffs? Why play the regular season then. The one game playoff is just to make the wildcard team blow the first start from their best pitcher making the lesser seeded team, the wild card team, that much more of an underdog. If you dont want the wild card team to make it do not add another, remove the existing one and go back to balanced schedules and either 2 or 4 divisions.

  6. sgm405 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Can the better team have a bad day and lose to a lesser team in a one game playoff? Of course.

    With that said, the same can and does happen (every single season) in the NCAA Tournament and the NFL Playoffs, which are – by the way – the two most popular sporting events by far, and people seem to be OK with it.

    I like it. A one game playoff between Boston and Tampa and Atlanta and St. Louis? Sounds pretty awesome to me.

  7. Glenn - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Joe Posnanski wrote a great essay about this topic. The main point? It sounds better on paper than it really is – definitely worth the read.

    http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2011/08/wildcard-vs-wildcard.html

    • JBerardi - Sep 24, 2011 at 8:12 PM

      You know what the solution to this problem is? Make Pos the commissioner.

      • Kevin S. - Sep 25, 2011 at 12:15 AM

        Co-sign. Times one thousand.

    • purnellmeagrejr - Sep 25, 2011 at 8:03 AM

      which POS are you referring to?

  8. Glenn - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Forgot to make the point that it doesn’t solve the problem of sometimes having the second best team in baseball (or at least the league) playing a one game playoff while weaker division winners skate by.

    • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      That is because it isn’t trying to solve a problem. Indeed, it is ignoring the creation of new competitive problems. Rarely in business does the goal of making more money coincide with production of a better product.

      • Glenn - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:56 AM

        You are absolutely correct. I forgot to think like a Selig for a minute there.

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        It is okay, I have to go take another shower now for doing Selig-think.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        Hence the idiocy of deregulation and trusting the rich to make things better.

      • paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

        Exactly. Every time an industry has been deregulated it immediately was screwed up by those running the industry, increasing prices, lower product quality/availability and enhancing profits for those that don’t want for anything already.

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Another reason why this is not a great idea is that it pretty much guarantees that the Yankees will never miss the playoffs again. I would include the Red Sox, but there’s always that possibility that they will pull another choke like they almost did this year(still may do) and not even earn one of the two wild cards. If they had 2 wild cards, the Yankees would have made the 2008 playoffs and played a one game playoff at Boston. While I admit that would have been a fun game to watch, it is ridiculous to think that after 162 games, .6172% of a season will determine who moves on to the Division Series.

    A one-game series in baseball goes against the nature of the game itself. I don’t even like the one-game playoffs when there’s a tie. Any and all baseball series should be a minimum of 3 games…but I know that’s not always feasible. In the case of a tie, it’s unavoidable. In this case…why add it? And what if there are ties for that 5th spot? Now we are adding the possibility of even more dragging out of the season and once again, the likelihood of November baseball. The best part of this season is that there should be no November baseball.

  10. bigleagues - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    While adding two Wild Card slots and the sudden death games (which we all know will be drawn out over two days rather than just having “D-Day”) certainly has some merit in enhancing the races, there is likely to be an unintended consequence as well.

    Mark my words from this day forth (and sports columnists should be sure and credit yours truly, “JBL”, for this first-in-the-nation analysis) . . . the addition of the Wild Card Play-Off will more than likely motivate the larger market/higher payroll teams to spend even more on payroll in an effort to win the division.

    Which will (after several years of Phi/NY/Bos/Tex/LA/Chi/Atl being in the NLCS/ALCS and WS every year) eventually, in turn, force MLB to propose the expansion of the Wild Card round to a 3 or 5 game series – which still won’t fix the problem – but at least the networks will be happy with their added inventory and revenue (that is, if any fans in the remaining 60% of baseballs markets are even still paying attention).

    Additionally, I fearlessly predict:
    ——————————————-
    - That the Yankees – in an effort to field MLB’s first starting lineup comprised solely of All-Stars; and avoid the potential shame and endless ridicule of being eliminated in a one-game play-off by a team with half or even a quarter less payroll – will approach $300 million in payroll within the next 3 years.

    - The Red Sox will announce that the have found a way to add more seating (the rumor is a hovering grandstand with a transparent floor, supported by 4 helicopters) in an effort to increase revenue enough to keep up a 75% of Yankees payroll pace. However, within a few years, reality sets in and the Red Sox announce that although they have mixed feelings about it, plans for a new Fenway Park are officially underway.

    - The Rays will be forced to go over the $50,000,000 threshold in payroll. Sternberg begins carrying a fire extinguisher fire – just in case the fire burning through his pocket gets out of hand. Within 5 years, he announces the inevitable, the Rays are moving to Southwestern Connecticut into a brand new state of the art facility right off of I-95 and Metro North railroad. The expected revenues from the publicly financed facility will cover a $150,000,000 payroll and pay the buyout of the Tropicana Field contract. Gov Malloy is overjoyed to have put his hometown of Stamford, CT on the big league map – even as the State of CT remains on the brink of financial disaster.

    - Between 5-10 years out – the Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Royals announce they no longer can compete without a salary cap and are considering folding if MLB doesn’t make drastic changes.

    MLB responds by swapping the Royals, Orioles, Indians and A’s with the Phillies, Mets, Nats, Dodgers & Giants leaving no big markets in the NL. MLB calls it a necessary economic reality and announces that the proud tradition of the Senior Circuit will carry on as the 2nd Division.

    The new 16-team AL will have four 4-team divisions with a wild card from each and will have a round robin style tournament to determine who will play for the World Series.

    The new NL with two 7-team divisions, will have only one play-off series between the two division winners. It will be called the Small World Series.

    Interestingly enough inter-league play will continue – between the AL and the Japan League. The NL will play their inter-league schedule exclusively against AL affiliated teams from the PCL and IL.

    - 15 years after MLB decided to include 1/3 of the league in the playoffs the entire NL folds and MLB is in danger of being irrelevant due to new XBox HGS (Holographic Game System) – which has kids and adults a-like preferring to play baseball with their friends, virtually, from the comfort of their own bed.

    And all because CEO Bud Selig continues to act in the best short term interests of baseball owners.

    • JBerardi - Sep 24, 2011 at 8:19 PM

      Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. But I think we’re still getting another wildcard team.

  11. paperlions - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    The thing is that adding WC spots will not enhance the drama at the end of the season. The drama is always for who will get the LAST spot, not for who makes it. This just shifts drama from division title and single team WC races to who will get the 2nd WC spot. Indeed, it likely will decrease drama for division titles (and the amount of overall pennant-race related drama) as now it is more likely that the losers of two races will still make the playoffs.

  12. Tribe&Browns&Cavs - Sep 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    I don’t see how this would add excitement to the end of the season. Taking this season’s example, instead of the Cards chasing the Braves and the Rays chasing the Sox we’d be following the Giants chasing the Cards and the Angels chasing the Rays. It just shifts the interest to worse teams.

  13. dasher521 - Sep 24, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

  14. rhandome - Sep 24, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    One-game playoffs are The Worst Thing. Ugh. UGH.

    • JBerardi - Sep 24, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      I don’t mind a game 163 because it means that two teams have played to a stalemate over the course of 162; neither team deserves to be in the playoffs more than the other. It might as well be a coin flip at that point. But when a team finishes five games back of another team over the full season, they have absolutely NOT earned the right to knock the superior team out of the playoffs. It’s a bad joke. It’s harmful to the game. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in the first place. In short, it is classic Bud Selig.

  15. Kevin S. - Sep 24, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    “Well, we’re going to hear plenty about fairness and the importance of winning your division”

    It’s funny, because those two things are squarely at odds with one another. There’s nothing fair about calling a multi-game gap a “tie,” which is what the one-game playoff essentially does, nor is it fair to reward inferior teams for the vagaries of geography.

  16. goawaydog - Sep 24, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    I can think of nothing positive about this

  17. tomlotter1948 - Sep 24, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Selig, if you really want to help baseball, when the collective bargaining contract expires, shut it down like the
    NBA, and let those overpaid divas sit.
    Owners you win if you just stick to your guns. Think of all the money you will save….and baseball will be fun for all the small market teams……..

    • natstowngreg - Sep 24, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      Bad, simplistic idea. Yeah sure, blame the players because the owners can’t get together on revenue sharing, which you need before MLB can try to force the players to accept a salary cap. Not happening.

      It took the NFL 2 work stoppages to get a salary cap, but first the owners had to agree to share revenue (easier for the NFL because it’s more reliant on national TV revenue, which is shared). Without revenue sharing, the small market teams wouldn’t have enough money to spend up to the salary cap, and the payroll inequities would have continued.

      This discussion ignores an important point — MLB and its player union are negotiating a new CBA without any real threat of lockout. And with little publicity.

      Oh, and this wild card game thing — pointless. But if MLB sees more TV dollars, it will happen. Most likely, Bud would be pushing this even if none of the additional dollars went to the players — more profits for the owners..

  18. mplsjoe - Sep 24, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Worst. Idea. Ever.

  19. leftywildcat - Sep 24, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    And what if there is a tie for that new 2nd Wild Card spot? Then there will be a play-in game to get to the play-in game! How does a manager adjust his rotation to best adapt to that potential situation? It’s an idiotic idea.

    What if a 3-way tie for that slot were to exist? Or what if a division race ends in a tie that affects a WC slot?

    Shouldn’t all efforts be toward improving the game? Put a 5th ump in a broadcast booth for review of all basepath calls — and impose penalties for deliberate Hit by Pitch and for deliberate hard home plate collisions — and leave the WC the way it is!

    Better yet: Leave the WC alone, and let the next best Won/Loss record (of all remaining 22 teams) host the following year’s All Star Game.

  20. okcochise - Sep 24, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    If sustaining interest and gaining money is the goal, there is a better way. Soccer Leagues around the world have it nailed. The answer is relegation. Divide up the clubs by payroll to initiate the new leagues. Top 4 clubs in Top league play for championship. Bottom 4 clubs also have playoffs with two losers dropping down to the second division. In the second division, the top 4 clubs play to see which two move up to the first division. Interest remains throughout the 1-16 (1st division) and 1-14 (2nd Division). Set up bonus money for each place in the standings for regular season to inspire teams to play hard all season. Games between the two divisions could also exist during the season but limited to home and home series.

  21. gb4ever0811 - Sep 24, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    I love the playoff expansion. I don’t love realignment. Keep it the way it is. I’m scared to death if MLB realigns the DH will be the established rule. The AL owners/players/etc. act like abolishing the DH will kill them…let’s try it…I’m sure it won’t.

    Baseball should be played like the sandlot! 9-on-9! Pitcher’s gotta hit! Let’s not treat pitchers like they’re gods. As a Phillies fan, I don’t think anybody has more of a privilege as we do in asking our pitchers to be treated like royalty.

    Get your hands dirty! Pitchers are just one position on a field of 9. Do I get nervous when a ball hits Cliff Lee’s fingers as he trying to bunt? Sure, but that’s baseball! If Cole breaks his leg running out a grounder will I scream for the DH? Heck no! Them’s the breaks (no pun intended).

    No DH! The only thing that should be labeled “Designated” anything around Citizens Bank Park is a Designated Driver.

  22. raysfan1 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    Setting aside the one game playoff idea for a moment… (Say, isn’t that the tie-breaker, so this in effect is saying the top 2 non-division winning teams are de facto tied no matter how disparate their records might be?)… Part of the justification for this is to increase the drama by increasing the number of teams in line for a possible playoff bid. This year that idea fails. Right now, there are 2 teams “in the running” for one wildcard playoff spot in each league. In the AL it’s the Red Sox, then the Rays (1.5GB) and the Angels (3GB). In the NL it’s the Braves, then the Cards (2GB) and the Giants (4.5GB). The next teams in the AL (Blue Jays and Indians) are another 5.5GB. The next team in the NL (Dodgers) are another 4.5GB. In other words, adding one playoff team to each league does zero to increase the number of teams realistically competing for the wildcard spots. In fact, this year it would dilute the competition by making it so that 3 teams in each league were vying for 2 slots instead of just one. The collective yawn about the playoff race would more than make up for any excitement a one-game playoff itself would generate.

  23. sparky1002 - Sep 24, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    A November playoff…the mind boggles at the chance of watching baseball games during a raging blizzard, but wait…damn if I didn`t go and forget about “global warming”…nevermind.

  24. bigleagues - Sep 25, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    HBT should be renamed HBTT: HardBall Think Tank because clearly more thought and discussion occurs here with respect to whats good for the game than what occurs in the CEO’s (Selig) office.

  25. nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 25, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Hey Bud: Before trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist (playoffs), how about implementing a solution to a real problem that does exist (occasionally dreadful umpiring that hurts the integrity of the sport). Try an NHL-style replay system with each team getting perhaps three challenges per game. And Bud, please try to resist the urge to add something like having the ump with the most reversed calls getting to pick which league gets home field for that year’s World Series! Thanks.

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