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The extra Wild Card team might not be the only change to the playoff format

Nov 19, 2011, 11:40 AM EDT

2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals Getty Images

We already know that there will be an extra Wild Card team in each league and a one-game playoff, perhaps as soon as next season. Craig discussed the issue at length yesterday, by the way. But Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that there could be another change to the playoff format on the horizon:

Source: Rule that a team cannot play another club from same division in Division Series will most likely be eliminated in new playoff format.

For example: If PHI has best record, and Braves/Nats are No. 4-5 seeds, PHI could play winner of ATL/WASH under new format,in all likelihood.

The goal here is to put the eventual Wild Card winner through the ringer — and most likely use their top starting pitcher — before they face the team who had the best record during the regular season. There will still be times when a division winner has a worse record than a Wild Card team, but I can live with this. The networks probably care about this more than anyone else, but it’s also refreshing to see that MLB isn’t afraid to have the Yankees face the Red Sox in the division series, if need be.
  1. paperlions - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    The odd thing is that they are trying to “fix” something that isn’t broken. Awesome (and dramatic) baseball happens when it happens, you can’t order it up or format things in such a way to generate it or make it more likely.

    This new format just pushes the playoff races down a notch, with worse teams competing for the last spot. Teams won’t be trying any harder to win their divisions. They can’t, they are already trying as hard as they can because they want home field as much as possible.

    The concept of putting the WC team through the ringer is mis-guided; more often than not he WC team is not the worst team in the playoffs, just as often they are the 2nd best team in the league that had the misfortune of being in the same division as the best team. For example, Tampa winning the WC while playing in the NL east would be put at a disadvantage compared to the winners of the AL Central or West not because they are a worse team, but because they are to face much better competition.

    • Kyle - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      Great point. The AL East WC team (teams?) could really get jobbed.

    • superpriebe - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      I guess we’ll have to disagree that there isn’t something broken here. Winning the division should mean something, as it has historically in baseball. As long as the Wild Card has existed, the pennant has been devalued, and in some cases, the stretch run that should have meant something had no actual meaning (e.g. Division winner and WC from same division, with no importance to the order of finish and each team resting up and setting rotations).

      While I’ll agree that we are letting worse teams compete for a spot, we’re not in NBA/NHL or even NFL territory just yet. Furthermore, I’ll quibble with the notion that the wild card isn’t usually the worst team – that’s true in the AL fairly often, but not so much in the NL (and true in neither league this past year: division winners won 102, 97, 96, 96, 95, 94 while WC won 91 and 90) . Even still, I think the additional WC is good on both sides.

      First, putting the WC through the ringer makes winning the pennant relevant again. Second, in the NL where the average WC team has won 90.6 games, that team is in far more or a disadvantage than before.

      One could argue that is is more unfair to AL teams like the ’01 A’s (102 wins), but adding an extra playoff team in the AL makes sense especially to the AL East teams that are stuck competing against (and, in addition, having an unbalanced against) the Red Sox and Yankees. Surely, the ’06, ’08, ’10 Blue Jays would probably have won more than their average of 86 wins if they had a few more games against the Royals of the world and a few less against the east coast juggernauts. The additional WC at least slightly assuages the very real problem of competitive balance in the AL East.

      • paperlions - Nov 19, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        Winning the pennant = winning the league and going to the WS, not winning a division.

      • Jack Marshall - Nov 20, 2011 at 12:59 AM

        Adding another team that proved during the course of 162 games that it isn’t even the best team in the Division isn’t the way to fix anything. Bottom line—we’ve gone from 10% of the teams—unequivocally the best, being eligible for the post season, to 23% to 30%. That’s trading integrity for inclusion, calling what were known as also-rans for most of baseball’s history into potential champions. There’s nothing fair about it…unless you call “fair” letting more less-than-great teams have a shot at the World Series every season.

        I’m sure the “Occupy” gang approves though. The disparity in talent needs to be addressed!

  2. Kyle - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    If it has to happen, this is at least a sensible adjustment.

  3. uyf1950 - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    I said it on one of the previous blogs here. I can’t understand why for the playoffs MLB doesn’t just have the 2 teams in each league with the worst regular season records have the play in game. If makes no sense in my opinion to potentially have teams that have played 162 games and that may have a better record than other division winners playing each other. Why is Selig treating the winners of the divisions as sacrosanct.
    In my opinion the best solution for who plays who is the simplest. That’s the teams with the 2 worst records should meet to see who moves on. Just my opinion.

    • deep64blue - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Sorry you are nuts – the whole point of this proposal is to make winning your division even more important, your suggestion would do the exact opposite.

      I hope they alter the schedule as well so that the play-in game is on at night one day and the winner is playing at the No. 1 seed at 1pm the next afternoon.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:06 PM

        I understand that was/is the purpose of the proposal. I just happen to believe that the teams with the 2 worst records should have to play the play in game and not potentially 2 teams that might have the 2nd and 3rd best records. That’s all.

    • paperlions - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      It isn’t just Selig, he can’t push anything through, he doesn’t even have a vote on anything…these are changes that the owners and the players are on board with….Selig’s primary job is to herd cats, not to decide where to herd them.

      • uyf1950 - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:18 PM

        I’m sure you’re right that it isn’t just Selig. But I think you may be underestimating his behind the scene power. I think he has on many occasions in the past talked about the importance of a team “winning” the division and I think for him this is a logic step in the evolution, in my opinion. One that I as a fan disagree with.

      • Panda Claus - Nov 19, 2011 at 7:35 PM

        I’m not sure I agree, though the normal Selig method of operation is to do exactly that. I really think he’s trying to tie up loose ends and polish up his legacy before his upcoming retirement.

  4. mqcarpenter - Nov 19, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    While they are at it they should eliminate interleague regular season play!

  5. mikmar22 - Nov 19, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    And PLEASE eliminate a wild card team getting home field advantage in the world series like this year. That was a joke!!

  6. purnellmeagrejr - Nov 19, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    This rule change will have the result of pumping up the value of a Justin Verlander even beyond what it is now for the obvious reason that an entire season is much more likely to hang on the outcome of one game.

  7. Old Gator - Nov 19, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Ahem…when will the postseason end under this new system – Thanksgiving?

    • Kevin S. - Nov 19, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      One extra game = one extra month of play? I’m opposed to this for a number of reasons, but length of season isn’t one of them.

      • Old Gator - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:02 PM

        It’s creep. Then the division series go to seven games. Then the LCS to nine. The World Series to eleven.

        What? You didn’t know it could go to eleven?

      • Kevin S. - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:30 PM

        And when they dropped the World Series from nine to seven games way back in the day, I’m sure traditionalists lamented about how eventually the World Series would be decided in a one-game winner-take-all.

        Baseball has already stuck their hand in the fire that is November baseball. They pulled it back after getting burned.

  8. tacklemeelmo - Nov 19, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Sick of hearing about 3 AL East teams in the playoffs.

    BOLD Prediction There will only be 1 AL East team in the playoffs next year.

  9. Old Gator - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Speaking of a dilated season, how to ballplayers get paid for postseason appearances? Do the ballplayers just split a percentage of the gate, do they get paid a bonus, do they get paid in proportion to their per-game allocation of their contracted salaries PLUS some kind of bonus? Just wondering how much money the Braves and Beanbags watched being seized by the Coriolis Effect at the end of August….

    • mcsnide - Nov 19, 2011 at 8:23 PM

      Currently, 60% of the gate from the first 3 games of the Division Series and the first 4 games of the LCS and WS go to the players. This money is pooled and divided as follows:

      WS winner: 36%
      WS loser: 24%
      LCS losers: 12%
      Division series losers: 3%
      Teams that finish 2nd in their divisions, but miss the playoffs:1%

      So it really depends on how far they would have made it. The 2011 shares haven’t been released publicly this year, but using 2010 numbers and assuming they’d been knocked out in the first round, the Red Sox cost themselves about $30K per man, and Atlanta around $20K (ATL’s isn’t as bad because they at least got the 2nd place 1%).

  10. humanexcrement - Nov 19, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Everyone’s been saying it’s about money. I agree, but I think that even in that light, it’s a stupid rule. Everyone knows the big clubs in the WS = better ratings. And who’s this one-game playoff thing going to hurt the most? Yankees and Red Sox, most likely. Thing is, it’s also going to hurt smaller-market teams who routinely compete for the wild card–Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and the entire NL West, to name a few. This is just a bad idea, and it shoots itself in the foot even from a financial standpoint–which, btw, I don’t agree with–just sayin’.

    • Reflex - Nov 19, 2011 at 11:11 PM

      Um, two mid-market midwest teams played in one of the highest rated world series of the past two decades just this season. I’m not sure high ratings require the Yanks or Red Sox.

  11. db105 - Nov 20, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    MLB shouldn’t have any divisions. They should have a balanced schedule and have the top 4 teams in each league in the playoffs.

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