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Whitey Herzog rips the expanded playoffs, admits he tanked games for draft position

May 18, 2012, 9:20 AM EDT

Whitey Herzog

Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog spoke to a group of folks yesterday and when he did so he ripped Bud Selig and the expanded playoffs:

“Look at what baseball has become, with interleague play and unbalanced schedules,” said Herzog, who led seven teams to the playoffs and had two others finish second … So now the Commissioner is trying to come out with a knockout game. The reason he is doing that is to get one more game you can see for $10 million,” Herzog said.

That’s not wrong. But it’s also not the most controversial thing he said. This is the reporter paraphrasing him:

At one point, Herzog admitted that, had the new format been in place when he managed, he might have tried harder to finish second.

Three of his teams finished third, and Herzog said he sometimes managed to finish third on purpose, not second place, as a way to improve draft-day positioning the next season.

Well OK, then. But yes, it is Selig who is harming competitiveness on the field.

  1. vansloot - May 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I think he just made the best argument for the expanded playoffs that I’ve heard yet.

    • paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      There are no good arguments for an expanded playoff, and there are many great arguments for not having a 1-game play-in. This is baseball. The Royals (who will not even sniff the playoffs) would beat the Rays 40% of the time in a 1-game play-in format…do you really want to reduce the importance of a 162 game season so much?

      If they wanted to expand the playoffs, then they should have made ever round a best-of-7….not included more teams and reduced the importance of the regular season.

      • Detroit Michael - May 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM

        Just because you disagree does not mean that there are no good arguments on the other side of an issue. There are many issues that we face in life upon which reasonable people may come to different conclusions.

        On this issue in particular:
        1) Giving wild card teams a disadvantage compared to division winners will increase the importance of the regular season when you have a division in which the top two teams appear likely to finish with better records than the second place team in any other division within the same league.
        2) Some people like the winner take all atmosphere of a one-game playoff even though it’s not your cup o’ tea.
        3) All playoffs reduce the importance of the regular season. A 7-game playoff series is still much less accurate at determining who truly is the best team than a 162-game schedule is. There’s a balancing act between creating suspense and crowing the best team as champion, and you would strike the balance different from where others might strike the balance.
        4) The one-game wild card playoff ought to be kept short so that we don’t lose fan momentum for the other playoff teams.
        5) The new system provides more hope to Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Toronto fans given that they are in the same division as two big-budget teams who are likely to stay big-budget teams.
        6) In general, more teams in the playoffs means more hope for fans of teams during the regular season but diminishes the reward of making it to the post-season. Again, it’s another balancing act where it’s difficult to state with certainty that one side of the debate is clearly correct.

        My guess is that I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know, but there are indeed are fine set of arguments on the other side of the issue if you choose to consider them.

      • samu0034 - May 18, 2012 at 10:52 AM

        1) Then reduce the number of home games the wild-card team gets to play in the opening round. Adding a second wildcard doesn’t do much with regards to the rest of the playoffs other than maybe preventing them from using their #1 pitcher twice.

        2) I guess. It makes for one potentially exciting game. I don’t think that’s that overwhelming an argument.

        3) Part of the beauty of baseball is that the regular season is Important. It’s a grind. It’s designed to winnow the wheat from the chaff. Continually adding teams to the playoffs only dilutes that importance, and would actually make an argument (to me) for drastically shortening the regular season, seeing as that winnowing process is no longer so important.

        4) I don’t quite get your point here. I suspect you misunderstood paperlions point and thought he was arguing for a longer play-in series.

        5) That’s really a different problem altogether. Getting rid of the unbalanced schedule would probably be more helpful in this regard.

        6) As a Twins fan, I can tell you that there’s really not that much excitement in seeing your good but not great team get to the playoffs only to be rubbed out by the actually great teams in the first round.

        So, point being… Paperlions is pretty much right. Other than money, there aren’t really any particularly good arguments for adding the play-in game. And they can argue that that’s not what it is all they want, but that’s what it is.

      • dan1111 - May 18, 2012 at 11:07 AM

        @samu0034, the point is that it’s a matter of opinion. There are arguments on both sides. Your comment shows that, as you don’t exactly decisively refute all his points. The last point about tyre twins is particularly weak. Other mediocre teams have won it all, exciting their fans. And surely at the time Twins fans were very happy to be in the playoffs. Only in retrospect, knowing the result, is it a disappointment.

      • Detroit Michael - May 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        Thanks for the reasoned reply. I was mostly objecting to paperlions’ level of certainty, not the underlying argument. There’s no need to be strident when we know that there’s not a clear majority opinion on it.

        1) Home field advantage is not huge in baseball. Home teams win 54% of the game and reap extra revenue, so it’s not nothing, but changing the mix between home and away games won’t really matter I suspect. Meanwhile, having a play-in game between two wild card teams per league immediately chops in half the odds of a wild card team winning the World Series compared to the odds for a divisional winner. That makes the regular season races for the division more meanginful.

        2) Your opinion is reasonable and so is mine.

        3) I prefer the regular season races too. More point is that 7-game play-off series also don’t prove who the best team is either.

        4) I thought paperlions was arguing for all play-off series to be 7 games long.

        5) Getting rid of the unbalanced schedule also would help. The addition of a second wild card also would help. It’s not an either/or situation.

        6) As a Tiger fan who has seen his team lose a game 163 to the Twins in classic fashion, I can tell you that there is still some excitement in making the post-season even if one is eliminated in the first game.

      • paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 11:52 AM

        I was arguing for all playoff series to be 7 games long (making the first round longer), not adding a contrived play in game.

        If your team is in the play-in game and loses. You will NOT feel like your team was even in the playoffs….and you’ll be very pissed if your 98 win team loses to an 86 win team in the play-in game.

        No, a 7-game series is not always won by the best team, but the outcome of a 7 game series will far more often be won by the best team…at the very least playing the best over 7 games is far more informative and deserving than playing the best over 9 innings.

        A game 7 is high drama because of the previous 6 games….you can’t skip to game 7 without all the other stuff and have anything like the same hype, drama, or interest.

        This is a money-grab pure and simple, and from multiple perspectives: 1) the hope that fans from a few more teams will be interested in games in September, earning franchises more money, and 2) suddenly MLB has a new product whose rights have not been sold to a network (unlike regular season and playoff series).

      • vansloot - May 18, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        If a team loses the play-in game they were effectively *not* in the playoffs. That’s an argument in favor of the play-in game because it actually increases the importance of winning your division.

      • Detroit Michael - May 18, 2012 at 3:12 PM

        “If your team is in the play-in game and loses. You will NOT feel like your team was even in the playoffs….and you’ll be very pissed if your 98 win team loses to an 86 win team in the play-in game.”

        Good. Then the 98 win losing wild card team will realize that they should have performed better in the regular season and won the division championship so they wouldn’t have to roll the dice on a 1-game playoff. It makes the division race more important than under the current system.

  2. thefalcon123 - May 18, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    “Three of his teams finished third, and Herzog said he sometimes managed to finish third on purpose, not second place, as a way to improve draft-day positioning the next season.”

    Wow. Just…wow. If he was intentionally tanking games, that’s one thing and utterly inexcusable. But, if he decided to rest his regulars more often, give more playing time to young players and didn’t care about the standings, then he is just doing what virtually every manager who has no chance of making the postseason does.

    • The Common Man - May 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      I want to see the actual quote. There’s every chance he wasn’t talking about deliberately tanking as much as he was more interested in playing younger kids in September and resting veterans.

  3. paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Meh, whatever. Especially when Herzog was manager, a few spots in draft position just didn’t matter much, if at all. This isn’t the NFL or NBA (or even NHL), where drafted players are immediately ready to contribute….the majority of 1st round picks never make an impact in the majors, and most of those that do take at least 3 years to do so….this sounds more like an old man revising history than an admission of any kind.

  4. justinreds - May 18, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Explain to me how losing games on purpose is ok and Pete Rose betting FOR his team gets you kicked out of baseball??

    • number42is1 - May 18, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      THIS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

      • indyralph - May 18, 2012 at 10:02 AM

        I’m not saying that tanking game is ok. But there is a major chasm between it and gambling. Major differences: 1) Your statement implies that you think Pete Rose is honest (now, but not before, but definitely now, almost, probably certainly maybe honest) about his gambling habits. 2) “Might have tried harder” is not the same as “tanking”, 3) Not trying quite as hard to win now because you think it is in the long term best interest of your team does not risk indebting yourself to criminals. By the way, nearly every team under .500 in July is under huge pressure to not try quite as hard now in order to be better in the future. They are called trade deadline sellers. Joe Girardi admitted to not caring about winning the division last year, because there was no incentive to win it. Tony LaRussa discussed in “3 Nights in August” the willingness to bench a better player for the game today so they have fresher legs later in the season. The examples are endless.

      • number42is1 - May 18, 2012 at 10:09 AM

        sorry but no… he affected the integrity of the game. Listen th whole Pete Rose thing will be argued until the end of time. Kicking him out of baseball for life is a little over the top ESPECIALLY after stuff lie what “The Boss” did as well as many others. but my point is that what this guy did is pretty bad as well.

      • ravensgrl - May 18, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        Resting a player so that they have “fresher legs” at the end of the season is ridiculous.. they have the whole off season to rest. Giving younger players more playing time is a more believable reason.

    • The Common Man - May 18, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      Look, none of us have seen the quote in question. It’s entirely possible Whitey was referring to letting younger players get a chance in September to see what they had, or resting veterans more often. I think it’s an overreach to suggest that Whitey Herzog is saying he was intentionally trying to lose baseball games. There are simply different priorities for out-of-contention baseball teams in September, and there always have been.

  5. frankvzappa - May 18, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Anybody who wouldn’t do the same thing is simply not trying. All Herzog is saying is that he did everything he could to improve his team, which was his job. So a guy does his job the best he can, and gets crucified for it…what could be more Amerikan?

  6. largebill - May 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    I have never been a Pete Rose apologist, but what Herzog admitted to doing is worse than what we are afraid Rose might have done.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 18, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      Hahaha! You simply can’t believe that LargeBill.

    • The Common Man - May 18, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      Not if he’s not actually admitting to actively trying to lose games. There are different priorities in September for teams out of contention: playing kids more, resting veterans, etc. I wish we had the actual quote.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        I hear you TCM. Priorites are starkly contrasted for a team in contention vs. a team out of contention. I too would like to see the actual quote. Whitey’s smart enough to know better.

    • cardsman - Aug 21, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      you are a fing,politically incorrect, retard

  7. dirtyharry1971 - May 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    selig has ruined the game, period

    • nlfan865 - May 18, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Someday there will be a MLB LOSERS Hall of Fame…and Bud Selig WILL be the Unanomous First Ballot Inductee,,,

    • paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 10:16 AM

      ML attendance, popularity, viewership, and revenue (you know, facts) show that you are completely wrong.

      The fact that you think Selig doesn’t anything without permission of the owners, just shows your ignorance.

      • ptfu - May 18, 2012 at 11:45 AM

        Are those facts correlated with Selig, caused by him, or did they happen in spite of him? This isn’t meant sarcastically or rhetorically–the answer isn’t obvious to some of us. He’s done some good things and some rotten things.

        Also, there is more to the game than the bottom line on a financial statement. Not that that isn’t critical–without it, no baseball–but it isn’t the only thing.

      • paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        They just show that the game is not ruined, people still love it and still spend a lot of time and money watching it and talking about it. MLB has never been more popular. If the game is not ruined, which it most clearly is not, then no one (including Selig) could have ruined it. This has nothing to do with Selig and everything to do with the fact that MLB as a product has never been more healthy.

      • ptfu - May 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        Fair enough. I had read your previous comment as a defense of Selig and not as an affirmation of the game’s health. Baseball is clearly thriving and remains un-ruined, so Selig could not have ruined it.

        There’s still plenty of leeway between “didn’t ruin the game” and “made the best decisions possible” but that is a discussion for another time & place. Perhaps if/when Selig retires and/or there is talk of putting him in the Hall of Fame.

      • paperlions - May 18, 2012 at 12:39 PM

        I don’t like Selig. He’s a tool (actually, a tool used by MLB owners) and a con man that has help billionaires extort local governments out of billions of dollars to build places of business for their hobbies. The government needs to get out of the welfare for the insanely rich business.

        …but that is beside the point of Selig’s effect on MLB. The commissioner only has the power the owners give him. His job is to make what they want to happen, happen…without the owners having to do the dirty work. A large part of that job is to absorb blame to prevent fans from getting pissed at their own owners/teams and taking it out on them.

    • rooney24 - May 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      dirtyharry1971 – May 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM
      selig has ruined the game, period

      At most, I think you could have put “question mark”, not “period”. I disagree, but might listen to arguments, of which you gave none. Can you give examples of how you think the game is ruined?

      While Selig may often come across as a tool and egotistical, as a former owner, I doubt he does much other than what the other owners are telling him to do. You rarely hear owners complaining about Selig because he does what is in the interest of the owners. While that isn’t always in the interest of us, the fans, it doesn’t mean he has done anything to completely ruin the game. If you are going to say that he “ruined the game, period”, that implies that you either feel that baseball no longer carries any interest (which it must, or you wouldn’t be posting here), or that you feel the game will fall apart and not exist in a few years (unlikely).

  8. shaka49 - May 18, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    What if Tony LaRussa intentionally tanked games to garner a higher draft position? 11 in ’11 never happens.

  9. The Common Man - May 18, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    I wish we had the exact quote from Herzog. Because it’s entirely possible that he was simply letting kids play in September, rather than actively trying to lose games.

    • shaka49 - May 18, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      It doesn’t matter Common…I want to be outraged…therefore, I am!

      • wendell7 - May 18, 2012 at 10:43 AM


  10. mreezybreezy - May 18, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Is there any truth to the comment about the extra $10 million? I have a friend who vehemently denies that these extra playoff games were put in place as a cash grab and we’re instituted to add a “competitive balance” to the playoffs…

    So yeah, please link to/ prove him wrong so I scream myself hoarse at him tonight at the bar. Thanks!!

    • CJ - May 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      so your friend thinks MLB is a charity and is putting the play in game on for free. No admission, free beer, no increased TV rights?

      Tell your friend I’d like to make him a Nigerian price and sell him a bridge.

    • CJ - May 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      so your friend thinks MLB is a charity and is putting the play in game on for free. No admission, free beer, no increased TV rights?

      Tell your friend I’d like to make him a Nigerian prince and sell him a bridge.

  11. natstowngreg - May 18, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    The worst thing that could come out of this, IMHO, is an increased demand for a draft lottery. It is true that MLB is not the NBA; as noted elsewhere, the #1 overall NBA pick is expected to contribute at the major league level immediately. I’m for the first pick going to the worst team, as demonstrated in the previous season’s standings, regardless of sport.

    Not that there has been any great cry for an MLB draft lottery, mind you.

  12. drunkenhooliganism - May 18, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Please don’t let Cole Hamels find out about Whitey Herzog tanking games.

  13. mungman69 - May 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Herzog is 95 years old. Why listen to him?

    • sdbunting - May 18, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Age aside, Herzog is a self-aggrandizing blowhard who never misses an opportunity to note how much better HE would have done things (or did in fact do things), or to blow gold up Stengel’s culo, as those of us who have had the misfortune of reading his books can tell you. The substance of the quote is probably not as pertinent as Herzog’s consistent priority, getting attention on himself, and the passing years have not stanched the flow of hot air.

      This isn’t to say he wasn’t actually good at his job, which IMHO he was. (Just ask him, heh.) But dude’s a gasbag. I wouldn’t treat any of this with Hal Chase seriousness.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 18, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        So Sdbunting…Cubs fan huh?

  14. bigleagues - May 18, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I’m disappointed. Even if I disagree with his opinion, Craig is typically cerebral and well thought-out, yet on this issue, he comes off as quite the opposite.

    So HALL OF FAME Manager Whitey Herzog admits that when in 3rd Place, he may have not pulled out all the stops to finish 2nd.

    – A team that is noted for winning Divisions, League Championships and World Series; the most successful franchise in NL history and the second most successful franchise in MLB history accomplishes what exactly by finishing 2nd and not 3rd? Pride? Puh-leeeez!

    – OK, so now we have the Wild Card and “Knock-Out” games. And there are those, including Craig, apparently, that maintain the modern play-off format dissuades teams from ‘tanking’ (I’d call it ‘realistically strategizing’) the Draft.

    Next year there will be Three 5-Team Divisions in each league and starting this year 33% of all teams (5 teams from each league) will qualify for the ‘post-season’ which means eventually 10 teams in each league will be sent home.

    So now, let’s take the AL East. Let’s say it’s late August and the Blue Jays and Red Sox find themselves 8-10 Games back of the final Wild Card berth. Let’s also theoretically say that GM’s view this year’s draft as a deep one. What prevents the RS & BJ’s from making an organizational judgement call and tank the final month of the season by auditioning organizational MiLB players far more than they would if they felt they had a realistic shot at winning a WC berth?


    The question I have had since the advent of the Wild Card . . . how many teams are enough? The Wild Card was added, first and foremost because it meant added revenue to the bottom line. But also because many thought it was unfair that a team could win 100 games, have the 2nd best record in the league and not make the playoffs.

    Now we are adding two more teams because its unfair that team could win 95 Games and miss the playoffs (oh yeah, and of course, more revenue).

    Whats next?

    OK, I disagreed with the Wild Card, but I can recognize the validity of the argument that adding one Wild Card to each league has benefited the bottom line and added excitement to September and October.

    But here’s my question now . . . at what point is MLB crossing the line and selling out the integrity of the sport in order to add to the bottom of the line.

    I think we are treading dangerously close to that right now.

  15. leftywildcat - May 18, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    The “fairness” of the 1st Wild Card (other than to have an even number of teams) was allow for the possibility of one division having the 2 teams with the best won-loss record in the whole league.

    A real purpose of a 2nd Wild Card is not at all clear.

  16. marvinband9 - May 18, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    I guess Cole Hamels would think that this old school baseball, next bring back the spitter.

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