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Posnanski: let’s get rid of the baseball playoffs

May 1, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Yankees WS Dogpile

He knows it’s not gonna happen. But he makes a damn fine point:

In England, soccer mirrors life. It’s the day-to-day excellence that marks greatness, not a three or four-week run to glory.

Well, I think we should bring some of that spirit to America … especially to baseball. I mean football is geared for the short season – 16 games, an intense playoffs, a Super Bowl, that’s why it’s the biggest thing in America. But they play 162 games in baseball. One hundred sixty two. I mean, seriously, that’s a lot of baseball games. No other sport plays so many.

That’s more than enough game to determine who are the best teams in baseball.

I feel that way. And not just because I root for a team that was quite often one of the best after 162 games yet only had one October Tournament win to show for it.

I love the World Series and all of the October drama, but I feel like it’s a completely separate season than the 162-game thing. The dynamic and rhythms of the whole exercise changes when the playoffs start. As do the strategies, the scheduling, the weather and just about everything that matters. I know the World Series crowns baseball’s champ, but I have always felt like the regular season tells you which baseball team is actually the best.

I’d be sad if the World Series were gone. But I’d get over it too.

UPDATE:  Kay and I talked about this in a special HBT Extra today too:

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  1. hsven1887 - May 1, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Leagues are great to determine the best teams, but soon you will know who will fight for the title and who battles relegation – and who is in the middle with nothing to play for. Having nothing to play for is boring and bad for the competition as it affects the motivation of the respective teams.

    International tournaments are a great way to fix this – they keep most of the teams involved until the very end of the season as there are now three targets (title, qualification for CL/EL, avoiding relegation), and the tournaments themselves are exciting by nature.

    Of course on a continent with only 2 countries international tournaments would maybe be just a little bit boring. MLB has the CONCACAF CL (whatever it’s called, dunno), so wouldn’t need play offs, but this isn’t an option for the other sports as the US leagues dominate them totally.

    Still, it is a travesty to play a 162 game season that is worth nothing in the end. At least MLB should give the best teams real advantages in the play offs, e.g. best team has only home games, or something like that.

    • nbjays - May 1, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      “Of course on a continent with only 2 countries international tournaments would maybe be just a little bit boring.”

      Are you telling me that Canada and Mexico are the only 2 countries in North America? Really? :-)

      • hsven1887 - May 1, 2013 at 8:07 PM

        I thought Canada is just an appendix to the US? ;)

      • bigleagues - May 1, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        Canada is the AAA affiliate for the US.

        Mexico is indie league.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 1, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    How exactly is one supposed to say who the best in baseball is without total balance in the schdeule? Don’t all 32 teams need to play each other? Otherwise you go back to the old AP UPI days for college football and split championships

    • brucewaynewins - May 1, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      I agree that a balanced schedule is required if you have no playoffs. But there is only 30 teams.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - May 1, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        I was using the metric system :)

    • sagnam - May 1, 2013 at 10:37 PM

      Or 30.

      • sagnam - May 1, 2013 at 10:39 PM

        Crap, I had this tab open all day and just got around to replying. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  3. mgv38 - May 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I’m a very devoted baseball fan, but I have not watched a World Series game in several years, because I know it doesn’t determine anything substantial, such as the identity of the best team in baseball. If my favorite team won 85 games, got into the playoffs, had a hot three weeks, and won the Series, it would be intellectually dishonest for me to call them the best team in baseball. I know better.

    I really enjoy the regular season. I don’t mind the playoffs, because they essentially pay for the regular season, a season which is determinative of the best teams, and often very best team. The playoffs are just a way to get non-baseball fans (and their money) into the process (like Opening Day and the All-Star Game do). That’s okay. The WS, OD, and ASG don’t make me feel “dirty”–just make me realize the Game is getting co-opted for a different audience and for a different purpose.

    The “problem,” then, is not with the playoff system–it’s with the significance that players, fans, and media ATTACH to that system. Everyone has their self-serving reasons for thinking the playoffs are meaningful. But they don’t prove which team is best. They playoffs are meaningful only as a revenue-generating means to an end. But we can be okay with that.

    • ryanrockzzz - May 1, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      You could say that, but how can you say the regular season is anything more then luck of the draw? Schedules are all imbalanced, and you mean to tell me a team like the Rangers doesn’t have an advantage over 162 playing the team like the Astros? Also, what about teams like the Twins/White Sox/Tigers who have to play the first month of their season in the bitter cold, or the Mets who got royally screwed earlier this month because of “snow outs.”

      Granted, the playoffs are not better as far a variables with weather or timing. But the same can be said for any other sport. Ravens are the prime example of that this year. The season is so long that hot streaks can go both ways. If i’m team a and I go on a hot streak in April, play just decent enough to creep in come September, how does that make me any better then the team who got hot in September but was awful in April? At that point the playoffs will determine who’s the best, but good post!

  4. crisisofinfinitephils - May 1, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Yes! I agree! Let’s get rid of the most exciting 2 1/2 months of baseball and let’s just play out the season. In fact, why don’t we also set it up so that the same four or five(? I know, five. I’m asking alot) teams are in contention and all the other teams wallow in mediocrity. And then those fans can concern themselves with whose fans are the toughest and they fight all the time all the while hoping some sheik or a mobbed up Russian will buy their team so they can actually compete! Awesome idea. I love it.

  5. misterj167 - May 1, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    I’ve been talking about this for some time and I know it will never happen but here’s my idea:

    Get rid of all the divisions and lose two clubs (I vote the DBacks and the Marlins, but that’s just me). Create a 162-game schedule where every team then plays every other team exactly six times, three home and three away. If you want to have playoffs or a WS, you take the top two or top four teams or at most the top eight and have seven-game series, seeded accordingly.

    Advantages to this are that no one can complain about who has a better schedule and it gives an incentive for teams who play well the whole year and not allow a team to slack off all year then get hot at the end of the season and only get in because they play in a lousy division. Nothing tees me off more than that, especially with this one-game playoff nonsense.

    Disadvantages are losing famous divisional rivals, like the Yankees-Red Sox or the Cubs-Cardinals.

    Baseball is not football, all emotion and violence, despite what Gritmeister Gibson would have us think. It’s a game built for the long haul where the best indication of a team’s success comes from consistency. Just ask the Phillies how hard it is to keep a winning record year after year after year and you’ll realize how amazing were the Braves’ 14 consecutive division titles, and the success of the Orioles from 1960-1980. A balanced schedule that rewards that consistency will give us a better indication of who the best teams really were, rather than a short series where anything can happen.

    • mkd - May 1, 2013 at 7:59 PM

      If you want contraction then put your own team on the chopping block. What’s that? You don’t want to put your team on the block? Then stop talking about contraction.

      • misterj167 - May 1, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        I chose the Marlins and DBacks in great part because they haven’t been here very long…but in order to make a 162-game schedule work you need two less teams than we currently have.

  6. ryanrockzzz - May 1, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I fail to see how this theory works at all. So the best team is obviously judged by how many games they win. But none of the teams play balanced schedules or in balanced divisions. Also many of the American League/National League teams may only play each other once a year, in April. So how can anyone say, oh this team won the most games, they are the best team when there are so many outside variables contributing to wins and losses?

    That’s the same logic as saying the player who drives in the most runs is the best run producer. If anything, get rid of those 5 game series in the 1st round and turn them into 7 game series.

  7. Marty - May 1, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    How about a pizza party for the team with best regular season record, then we start the playoffs?

  8. yahmule - May 1, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    I’m surprised anyone is buying into this idea. While the regular season and post season are different, they represent a two part system in determining a champion. You qualify for the tournament and then you compete in the tournament. If you stumble during one part of the process, then you wait until next year. Ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners.

  9. charlutes - May 1, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    love it.

  10. charbycharlie - May 1, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I see the point. I personally wish the best regular season national league team and American League team got byes to the championship series and the other teams had to playoff to compete against them in a 9 game series. Also move the World Series back to a 9 game series too.

  11. Walk - May 1, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    If they want to change anything about baseball we can start with that atrocious money grab of a one game play in. Utter greed is what is driving that change. I do happen to like the long season, and I do like the playoffs now as opposed to a soccer style season. I love that you not only have to have a roster that gets you through a grueling season but that you then have to cut that roster down to your best three or four starters for the playoffs. The debate of those decisions and their eventual ramifications are always among my favorite stories. Then we have the trade deadline. Say I got a star player he has now roughly a season and a half left on his contract. I am sitting in third place. What to do? Do I trade and get better for the future, do I try to win now and hope for compensation pick if I cannot resign him? We would be losing those parts of the game. That is just too much for me to even consider that much of a change.

  12. ndnut - May 1, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Here’s my $0.02. Get rid of interleague and expand the schedule. Play each of the teams in your league 12 times (6 home and 6 road). 12×14=168. afterwards, each league sends their winner to a best of 7 World Series. Keep the Fall Classic while rewarding the regular season.

  13. zappxx - May 1, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    Before Selig goes, I expect he will oversee expansion of the playoffs to 16 teams, all best-of-seven, with the final round pushing December. The concept of reducing the number of playoff games is as laughable as introducing relegation.

  14. slystone111 - May 2, 2013 at 5:54 AM

    Another really stupid idea from Joe Posnanski. Who, truth be told, seems to specialize in stupid ideas.

  15. jdvalk - May 2, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    Don’t do away with the World Series, but i’d be fine with the pre-60s format to make the league pennant mean much more. But as we know, $$ won’t allow it.

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