I know, I know.
Baseball, like any sport, is a business. Men with suits and ties and dollar signs are really all that matter in the grand scheme of its decision-making.
So it makes sense why Major League Baseball will be going with a 10-team playoff system next season. It involves more fans, more cities, more games of critical magnitude, and more dollar bills.
If you don’t know the particulars of the new system, read Jayson Stark’s ESPN.com article here.
Now, I’ll admit that this new format is quite a bit more exciting than the current system. There’s no doubt that the new one-game playoff between the two Wild Card winners of each league will be riveting, exciting-as-baseball-can-get action.
That said, I hate it.
The very best teams should be the ones playing in October. Unlike the NBA and NHL, the MLB has always been in accordance with that; the old system, in which eight of 30 teams made postseason play, was the lowest percentage of teams that made the playoffs in any of the big four leagues.
Not only was this system too hastily decided upon, leaving the scheduling a mess, it is brutally unfair to baseball’s elite. Take 2010. The New York Yankees finished a whole six games in front of the Boston Red Sox for the American League Wild Card. The Yankees also only finished one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL East crown. Had today’s silly system been in place then, the Yankees’ entire 162-game season would come down to one game against a team they were six games better than. Sure, it would be exciting. But even the worst teams in baseball win 60 games throughout the course of a season. If the Yankees weren’t able to start their ace in the one-game playoff because they used him the day before to attempt to win the AL East, they’d be left with an unfavorable matchup, since the Red Sox knew they had no chance to take the division and would have saved their ace for the playoff. Here, you can’t use the argument “the Yankees should have won the division.” The Red Sox “should have won the division” too, but in this scenario, they are in a better position than the Yankees for having lost it.
That’s not the only reason I’m not for this system. Remember last year’s unbelievably exciting, beyond-Hollywood season finale involving the Red Sox and Rays in the AL and Cardinals and Braves in the NL? With this new playoff system, all of those games would have been pretty irrelevant. They would have only decided home field advantage for the one-game playoff. All four of those teams would have been in the playoffs, anyway.
It’s a shocker why baseball didn’t wait until 2013 to implement this system. As Stark points out time and time again in his piece, baseball is looking at a scheduling nightmare if a tiebreaker is needed for a division crown. Now, the team with the “home field advantage” has to play their first two games on the road in their Division Series, and the next three at home. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have the option of the lower seed.
Baseball, you messed up on this one. It has good intentions for the fans, but the sport just got a lot more unfair. At least add a respectable replay system to counter this.