Meanwhile, at the General Manager’s meetings in Orlando, Florida, it appears that baseball’s post-season will be expanded in 2012.
Baseball first enlarged its playoffs in 1969 after a round of expansion and the splitting of each league into two divisions. In the aftermath of the 1994-95 strike, the wild card was added to post-season play.
According to reports from Barry Bloom at mlb.com and at ESPN, there will be an addition of one more wild card team in each league starting as early as 2012, pending approval by the owners and agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association. ESPN titled its article “No Opposition To Expansion Plan”, so it appears that Commissioner Bud Selig has already made the rounds via telephone and determined the viability of this idea, as is his usual business practice.
While addressing the media, Selig said that his specially appointed committee will discuss adding wild card teams when it meets on December 7th at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This topic will most likely be talked about in more detail when the owners and general managers meet again Jan. 12th and 13th in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
There could be some grounds for concern. This change would have to be added into the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLBPA and Commissioner’s Office as par tof a new CBA, which replaces the current one that expires on December. 11, 2011. Considering that relations between the two primary negotiators – MLB Executive Vice President for Labor Relations Rob Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner – are cordial and businesslike, this playoff expansion deal will get done in some form.
According to Bloom’s article, Manfred would not ask for a 2011 playoff change, as it would be difficult to re-open the CBA to adjust just one item just before negotiations for the new CBA commence. Weiner has said the players are certainly open to discussion about the wild card as part of the new CBA.
Another concern is major league baseball’s sponsors and television partners would have to want to be financially involved in an additional round of playoffs and spend money or providie air time in an uncertain economic environment.
However, the biggest concern will be deciding what format the wild card playoff would take. Will it be a one game winner take all playoff? Will it be two games out of three? Would it require a shortening of the 162 game season to 154 games as in the pre-1961 past? Will off days in the divisional series, championship series and World Series have to be eliminated in order to avoid having Game Seven being played on Veteran’s Day?
In my opinion, if you are adding another wild card team, it makes it imperative that the team with the best record during the regular season receive a reward and that the wild card playoff entrant be penalized in the process.
During the divisional series, the team with the best record in each league will play the wild card team every year. The best team in the league will host Games One and Two, the wild card team will only host Game Three and Games Four and Five (if necessary) will be played back at the home park of the team with the best record.
Also, the wild card playoffs will start the Monday after the season ends, so there will be no days off. If it is decided that the playoffs will be a best two out of three affair, there will be no days off during that series – they will play games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the first game of the divisional series for the surviving wild card team (to be played at the home of the team with the best record) would take place on either a Tuesday (after a one game series) or a Thursday (after a best two out of three series). The only chance of a day off for the wild card entrant would be to win its best of three series two games to none.
It is important for baseball’s integrity that any extra rounds of playoffs should not cheapen the results of the 162 game marathon that encompasses a regular season.