Major League Baseball could expand its playoff format as soon as next year. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the Associated Press last week that he is open to discussions about expanding the baseball playoffs to include more wild card teams and to lengthen the divisional playoffs, now the best of five, to best-of-seven series.
Selig needs to get the dollar signs out of his eyes and see that playoff expansion is a bad idea. The World Series already has us looking for a Mr. November instead of a Mr. October. Expanding the playoffs further would give us few positives and a lot of negatives. Most importantly, it makes for an unpleasant experience for fans. The roar of the crowd should not be tempered by the muffle of gloved hands.
One of baseball's allures is that it is our summer sport. It is hard to top a hot dog and beer in a T-shirt and shorts while soaking up the sun in the bleachers. You can get through games with a nip in the air when you get to playoff baseball. But you start talking about games with snow flurries and you talk about a miserable experience for fans and players alike.
Put Minnesota, New York or Philadelphia (and every once or twice a century, Chicago) deep into the playoffs under the expansion scenario and you are checking the weather forecast for the chance of snow accumulation before grabbing your parkas, scarves, boots - and tickets.
This will lead to every new Major League Baseball stadium north of the Mason-Dixon Line putting retractable roofs on their stadiums - or going back to dreaded indoor baseball, based on the hopes of late November playoffs runs and playoff revenue.
The cold northern November temperatures also put players, especially pitchers, at greater risk of injury. That should not occur just so more playoff baseball television revenue flows into the MLB tills.
"Obviously, we have to talk to the union," Selig told the AP. "These are all details we have to work out. While I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, we have a lot of different opinions on the subject - how to do it, if to do it.."
Selig would be better off spending his time thinking about how to give the poor people of Pittsburgh more than a Double-A baseball team year in and year out.
We do not need baseball to turn into basketball and hockey where you barely need to hit the .500 mark to earn a spot in the playoffs.
There has been talk of cutting back some of the regular MLB season to make room for the expanded playoffs. While this might actually end the pain of people in Pittsburgh, Washington and often Chicago sooner, it will not generate greater interest in the playoffs. For many fans, when your team packs it in for the year so do you.
Knocking a week off the season will not knock down any ticket prices. If anything, prices will go up with many teams knowing that they have to get all in their money in 154 games instead of 162 because the playoffs are not an option
Plus, baseball is the one sport where statistics matter. Sluggers going after single-season home run marks or trying to post another season of 100-plus runs can use those extra games. The 20-game winner is a rarity now. Go to 154 games and it may become extinct.
While cutting back eight games would not be a huge travesty to any teams, players or fans, we do not need more than eight teams making the playoffs. There is six months of baseball for a reason: to figure out the teams worthy of competing in the playoffs. We don't need three wild cards per league. There normally aren't three non-division winners worthy of the playoffs in both the American and National leagues. While the argument could be made for including San Diego in this year's National League playoffs, can anyone accept die-hard Cardinal fans say the 86-win St. Louis Cardinals belonged in the playoffs this year? But that is what we will get with expanded playoffs. And after the Cardinals, there was not an NL team above .500.
The wild card was a great addition and adds much when one team runs away with a division title. It gives that really good second team in a division a chance to make the playoffs. And we don't need to stack the playoffs the way the National Football League does so the wild cards fight it out while the division winners rest. This makes the playoffs hugely favoring the division winners. Baseball does not need this. There is something very fair about the top divisional winner not resting and having to face the wild card team.
It is also nice having the first playoff series, be a short series (best of five games). There is nothing you will get out of four-game sweep between mismatched them that a three-game sweep wouldn't handle.
You want to knock a week off the baseball season? Have at it, Mr. Commissioner, but don't make us watch wild-card playoffs and longer divisional playoffs. That won't sit well with our pumpkin pie!