Griffin: Traditionalists aghast but more wild-cards good for MLB
DUNEDIN, FLA.-Baseball playoffs have officially been expanded from eight to 10 teams in time for the 2012 season, in a joint announcement on Friday from the MLBPA and major-league baseball.
This means the two wildcards from each league will engage in a one-game playoff to advance to the final four. The surviving Wild-Card will visit the team with the best overall record, even if it's in their own division. The new format would have included the Jays just once in the past 17 seasons.
This was not a difficult negotiation for either side. They both wanted it, even if it was for different reasons. It gives more players a chance to enjoy the post-season and win a World Series and it gives ownerhip two extra games to sell on TV and to advertisers. It also keeps more teams engaged in the regular-season schedule in September.
Expanded playoffs were already in the new CBA, but they were slated to be introduced for 2013, the year the Astros move to the AL to balance the two leagues at 15 teams each. But late last year at the time the basic agreement was being ratified, both sides agreed to try and find a way to add the extra wild-card in time for 2012. They gave themselves a March 1 deadline and missed it by one day.
“I greatly appreciate the MLBPA’s cooperation in putting the new Postseason format in place this year,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “The enthusiasm for the 10-team structure among our Clubs, fans and partners has been overwhelming. This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive Postseason in professional sports.”
The advantage for the six division winners is that they now will have an extra couple of days to set up their playoff rotation, while the two wild-cards in each league will be duking it out, likely with one of their best starters burned in the sudden-death game.
“The players are eager to begin playing under this new format in 2012 and they look forward to moving to full realignment in 2013,” Executive director of the MLBPA, Michael Weiner said. “Our negotiating committee and the owners’ representatives worked hard to develop a schedule that should make for fairer competition and provide our fans with a very exciting season.”
From 1904 through 1968, the World Series was contested between the AL and the NL pennant winners, in what were eight, then 10 team leagues.
Between 1969 and 1993, there were four division winners, with each circuit playing off in a League Championship Series leading into the Fall Classic. Traditionalists were aghast.
The exception was the strike year in '81 when baseball uniquely honoured a first and second half winner in each division. With eight teams in the playoff field, they competed in a then-unique five-game Division Series.
Finally, from '95 to 2011, baseball changed to six divisions, with three division winners plus one wild-card competing in three rounds of playoffs. Now the playoff pool goes to 10 teams. Once again, with each additional change, baseball traditionalists have been aghast.
A couple of the better spinoffs for the game resulting from the addition of two more playoff teams is that there should be more GMs that are buyers at the July 31 trade deadline and with more teams qualifying for the post-season and a longer break before playoff games start, it can only legitimize the final week of the season in most markets. Now, instead of callups and token two or three inning starts, even the division winners will be able to pitch their regular starters in the last three games instead of blowing off the final weekend as in the past to set up their rotations for the playoffs.