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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. kendallsalter - May 1, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Well, you could keep the World Series and retain the 162-game emphasis by going back to the days of taking the best team in each league at the end of the season.

    That means scrapping divisions, balancing the schedule and a whole host of other logistical things that would never happen (it would cost league/owners money), but as long as we’re discussing hypothetical scenarios here…

    • pauleee - May 1, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Done in one

  2. cur68 - May 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Not gonna happen and I can see you, Beane, and JoPos know that. Why? Because of $. Lots of $. Oh well. Bring on the Gauntlet of Randomness!

  3. indaburg - May 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    I agree wholeheartedly but it will never happen for a reason that rhymes with honey.

    • slickdemetrius - May 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Boney, as in Boney M? Yeah, I’ve been blaming them for a lot of things lately too. How dare they mock Rasputin.

      • indaburg - May 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Those bastards.

    • bigharold - May 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      It’s not just money, although there is no denying that money is a huge factor.

      Most fan would go bat shit crazy if the eliminated the playoffs, especially the World Series. To that extent MLB is merely giving the fans what they want and keeping as many teams as is reasonable in the hunt for as long as possible.

      With the expanded playoffs, the addition of a second WC, MLB is risking seriously diluting the regular season inasmuch you could have one too many mediocre WC teams get in the playoffs, gets hot and wins the WS. I thought that the one WC was fine and if anything the consequences of being the WC should have been more significant, .. and not in a good way. Regardless, I don’t think any team that’s record wasn’t in the top 20-25% should be in the playoffs lest MLB start looking like the NBA.

      In the end while the current playoff system isn’t ideal it serves two purpose besides keeping as many fans as possible engaged for as long as possible. 1. It is a safe guard against big market teams from dominating the Playoffs and thereby the WS. Have a playoff system provides the “have nots” of baseball a bit more leverage. 2. It eliminates the possibility that a teem get really hot for a portion of the year thus becoming champions with out really being the best team. An example might be a situation like the 84 Tigers that start the season 30-5. One could start that way and play a little better than .500 the rest of the season and win 100 games. That might get them the best record but would they be the best team? Or, conversely like the 2001 Mariners who won 116 games during the season but lost in the playoffs. If they were truly that good they should have crushed the Yankees in the ALCS. I think the best team not only has a good record in the during the season but produces when it counts too, .. like the playoffs. And, I think most baseball fans think that too.

      May Joe has a point, .. who needs 100+ years of tradition? Who cars what the fans want? Or, maybe Joe was just saying something crazy to get people to read his column?

      • bigharold - May 1, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        And, .. I know the 84 Tigers won 104 games and the WS, .. I’m just using their start as an example.

  4. tomemos - May 1, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Of course, the League Cup is a playoff. So is the Champions League. Plus, I’m not especially eager to go to the predictability of English and European soccer—or for that matter pre-playoff baseball—where the same two or three teams duke it out for the top spot each and every year.

    • kendallsalter - May 1, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      That’s also a totally fair point. There are advantages and disadvantages to each format.

    • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      The predictability of soccer has very little to do with the lack of playoffs and everything to do with prize money, European qualification, and promotion/relegation. In European soccer if you perform badly, you get less money, play less important games and possibly face relegation. In the States, you get rewarded with a higher draft pick. Tanking a few seasons builds a future in American sports. In European soccer, it means you see yourself in the second or third division.

      • thefrenchyconnection - May 1, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        While there is a financial benefit to winning the league the difference per spot is minimal (I think 750K). The big money is in european qualification but baseball does not currently have an equivalent model.

        What it does is put a premium on evaluating talent and investing money properly.

        With no threat of relegation in MLB the same draft pick rewards would apply.

      • tomemos - May 1, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        Those are good points, but even so, going to a winner-take-all system would have eliminated a lot of the unpredictability of the last few years—no Red Sox over Yankees in ’04, to take the most famous example.

      • bigharold - May 1, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        ” In the States, you get rewarded with a higher draft pick. ”

        That’s cause in the Sates we’re all about upward mobility.

      • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        The winner take all system would have produced 10 different winners in 20 seasons. The best two teams (Braves and Yankees) would have won only 4, instead of the 5 that the Yankees won. Also in the winner take all system, no team would have won three consecutive seasons, such as the Yankees had done in the World Series.

        While World Series add random, and thus unpredictability right until the end of oktober, it does not make it any more predictable ahead of the season who will win.

  5. mattjg - May 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    I’m not opposed to this, but the only way this would be fair is to scrap divisions completely and make every team play every other team the same number of times. Once again it comes down to money. A trip from Newcastle to Southampton (or even London) is a lot less costly than flying from say New York to San Diego.

    • blacksables - May 1, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Have you been on the trains lately?

  6. sdelmonte - May 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

    It worked well with 8 teams and with 10. But with 15, it might be a bit unwieldy. And I can’t see it working with all 30 in one league.

    But I can’t really imagine getting rid of the playoffs. The World Series has been with us for 110 years, and the LCS has a pretty good track record. But I think we could live without the LDS and the wild card. Let’s have two divisions in each league like when I was a kid.

  7. mykolm - May 1, 2013 at 10:57 AM

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

    This might be the dumbest paragraph ever written by a baseball writer. What?? The entire point of a baseball season is to reach the pinnacle — the World Series. I have no problems with trimming down the regular season schedule or making every postseason series a Best of Three, but to cancel forever the World Series and say you’d be sad but you’d get over it, that’s a fireable offense.

    I enjoy reading the comments and rarely post but man, I’m stunned at what you wrote. And please, let’s not ever compare baseball to soccer ever again.

  8. Old Gator - May 1, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I have a better idea. Let’s reduce the season to one month in the fall during which each teams plays every other team once, then have an intense playoff series followed by the World Series.Then, you could charge $150 per ticket for the shitty seats, even in Minneapolis – why should the Borg be the only ones who can do that? If Posnanski thinks that’s the kind of thing that makes football so great, why not reconfigure the baseball season in its image? At the rate that players are getting hurt these days, they might as well be playing football anyway.

    • bigharold - May 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      “why should the Borg be the only ones who can do that?”

      Cause we’re the Borg and you’re not.

      • Old Gator - May 1, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        Tell me all about it.

  9. indaburg - May 1, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    On the other hand..

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

    Where is this magical land of life’s ultimate fairness? How many of us have been witness to the lucky bastard who ascends to greatness simply for being at the right place and time, while we toil away to the best of our abilities day in and out, unrecognized? I dare say the current system mirrors real life. I don’t like it.

  10. sleepyirv - May 1, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    I think it would be good for the sport if they went back to two divisions in each league. Record matters more, but you still have some playoff games before the World Series.

    But really, I would settle for not having a play-in game for the Wild Car every year.

  11. ricardorobertasq - May 1, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Will never happen, as one poster has said, due to money alone. Instead, I can see them trying to add more teams to the playoffs in the future, just to make more money. Secondly, let’s scrap divisions and even leagues. We also need to scrap either the DH or make it available to every team. We then need to have every team play every team equal amount of times-x amount at home against them and x amount on the road to their stadium so travel is equal. We then can think about taking the teams with the two best records to play each other in a World Series. I personally don’t want the playoffs taken away, as our regular season actually matters. In the NBA and NHL, you really only need to play .500 ball to make the playoffs and half the teams are in it. With MLB, only 5 in each league get in and you don’t want to be the bottom 2 as you may be gone in one game. Gives meaning to each win in the regular season.

    • louhudson23 - May 1, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      Problem is ,Bud and his minion yim-yaps have no intention o stopping here.Only more to come.Reality is that Interleague novelty has worn off(I actually have only ever seen inter-league play in the WS,where it belongs.I boycotted the entire regular season of it’s inaugural year and refuse to watch any regular season IL play….)and playoff saturation has been reached and passed.We need a balanced schedule with games only within your own league..4 Teams in the Playoffs.Two in the Series.One Champion.

  12. bolweevils2 - May 1, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    They’re right that the playoffs are a crapshoot, and based on true merit the regular season really determines who is best, and that it’s not going to change.

    But my real takeaway from his article is “What? You don’t get refills on Diet Coke in England? Are they living in 1975 or something?”

  13. tellyspop - May 1, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Baseball Playoffs: Let’s get rid of Posnanski!

  14. mdpickles - May 1, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    “but I have always felt like the regular season tells you which baseball team is actually the best.”

    ^^I can see why you think that way, Craig. Under this setup, the Braves would have 8 or 9 WS Trophies.

  15. dkb1968 - May 1, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Like it was from 1969 or 1970 ( I forget) until whenever it was Bud Selig screwed it up.

    2 Divisions in each league, the best team in each division play a 7 game series( this is the League Championship Series) and the 2 winners play in the 7 game World Serious.

    The regular season means something. It doesn’t now, not when a team that was NOT the best team in their division can be the “best” team in baseball by winning the World Serious.

    Only winners need apply.

    • dkb1968 - May 1, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      This would also get rid of interleague play. Another scourge of Bud Selig.

      And that would be a good thing in my opinion.

  16. yarguy - May 1, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    It would be nice if Posnanski actually knew something about European and English football. While winning the Premiership has cachet in and of itself, the real goal is to finish in the top 4 (in the Premiership) to make it into the Champions League, which is basically a playoff and where the real money is made. And, then, there is that relegation thing at the other end (Houston to the Pacific Coast League & Miami to the International League?) And there’s the FA Cup (a playoff of all things) and the Europa League (a playoff again) for the almost rans. No, Pos, European football is, in fact, all about playoffs.

    • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Winning the Premiership has often been regarded as more important than winning the Champions League, despite the money involved.

      • thefrenchyconnection - May 1, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        I have to completely disagree with you on that.

        The Champions League is the pinnacle of European domestic club football (some say football in general). As the name suggests you are playing against the best teams from the previous season in each league.

      • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 12:06 PM

        The name suggests you play only Champions, yet Liverpool have won the 2007 Champions League. When was the last time they won the Premier League? That is an honest question, because I honestly can’t remember.

        The likes of Basel, Cluj, Heerenveen, and Racing Genk are hardly better than the bottom of the Premier League.

    • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      Also, you seem to confuse the terms “playoffs” and “knockout”. Playoffs are additional tournaments which are played after the end of regular season play. Knockout games are games in a tournament where two decide which one of them will continue in the tournament.

      The FA Cup is not a playoff, it is a knockout tournament that lasts the entire season and runs parallel to the league. The Champions League is a group knockout tournament that starts with groups and then progresses to knockout stages. In former formats, groups would follow knockout stages, or at times there have been groups following groups. Neither of these tournaments are play-offs.

      The Belgium competition however, does have a playoff. After 30 games, the best 6 teams qualify for the playoff stage, where they play a double round robin. This is a playoff without knockout rounds.

  17. albertmn - May 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    We had this in America (no playoffs in a sport). It was college football, and the majority hated it, so it has slowly been changing.

    Whether or not you have playoffs, I would love to see every team play every other team even a 2 game set. If they NBA can play every other team twice in 82, MLB should be able to do it in 162. Otherwise, balanced schedule within your league as well.

    If you want to make the playoffs more like regular season, get rid of the off days. Make it important to have 4 or 5 starting pitchers, not one or two studs that can swing a series. Make the managers decide if the backups (such as catcher) need to play. As it is, you can often get by with 3 starting pitchers, only your top relievers, and all of your regular starting position players.

  18. seitz26 - May 1, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    One side effect is that it would kill any interest in the trade deadline (or kill the deadline itself). Whether that’s positive or negative depends on your point of view. But in July and August, there would only be a small handful of teams duking it out for the best overall record. Currently you may have half the league still in the picture for a playoff spot at that time.

    And as mentioned above, soccer’s schedule allows for both regular league play as well as the various intra inter-association competition. It would be difficult to do in baseball without dramatically reducing the regular season and increasing travel. And teams knocked out early in those competitions have fewer opportunities to sell tickets. That’s a big revenue hit. Fun to think about, but fairly impractical for baseball.

  19. section118 - May 1, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Its always a balance between fair and exciting (see March Madness as an example of shifting to the exciting over fair and see NBA/NHL never ending playoffs as an example of fair over exciting).

    I agree the Pos theory is by far the most just (its the old Moneyball theory that the playoffs have too much randomness). But it would kill interest in baseball. Obviously the playoff revenue is the driving factor. But beyond that- it becomes obvious fairly quickly who the best teams in baseball are. By June, there may be only about 3 or 4 teams that would be left in contention. Baseball fandom will rely- not at all about cheering for your team’s success- but for watching the game itself (good enough for me and you, but not the public at large). In short, by mid-season most teams would be the Chicago Cubs.

  20. monarchs99 - May 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Doesn’t soccer have a tournament called the World Cup? Doesn’t the World Cup have one champion?

    Let’s do away with the Olympics as well. We should have all of the best swimmers, track athletes and gymnasts compete throughout a year process, and then the ones that have the best aggregate record will get a gold medal.

    • cktai - May 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      They already have that for Track and Field. It’s called the Diamond League.

  21. wallio - May 1, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Ditch divisions and interleague play, balance the schedule, play 168 games (to make up for a bit of the lost $$$) and have the two pennant winners play in the WS, best of 9 like the old days. Will never happen, but I would like. The playoffs are too damn random, especially with these weird one game wild card things.

  22. mianfr - May 1, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Another completely terrible article from mercenary writer Joe Posnanski!

    Has he just run out of interesting things to say? Is it from all the jumping around?

    I used to look forward to these but over the past two or so years he’s become Rick Reilly.

  23. cackalackyank - May 1, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Bud Selig does not like this idea. Nor do the owners that put him in his job.

  24. chip56 - May 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    So Joe talks about how swell this is worked out for soccer while completely ignoring the utter disaster the same concept is here for college football. This moron is essentially suggesting a BCS for baseball.

    I don’t care if you play 16 games or 162 games, you’re going to have different strengths of schedule come into play.

    F’ing garbage from someone who wakes up in the middle of the night screaming about small sample sizes…

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      So Joe talks about how swell this is worked out for soccer while completely ignoring the utter disaster the same concept is here for college football. This moron is essentially suggesting a BCS for baseball.

      No, he’s not. There’s many differences between CFB and the Premiership. But keep whining about the article rather than learning the difference.

      • chip56 - May 1, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        I didn’t whine about the article. I mocked it. There’s a difference.

    • thefrenchyconnection - May 1, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Not if you have a balanced schedule…similar to what is used in the EPL

  25. rambo888 - May 1, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Keep playoffs and quit complaining

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