How Playoff Expansion Would Change Baseball

David Ortiz

that he is open to the idea of expanding the playoffs and that it could happen as soon as next season. Michael Weiner of the MLBPA had previously stated that expanding the playoffs wouldn’t happen until the 2012 season.

While Selig didn’t offer details on how playoff expansion would work, many believe that it will include adding a second wild card team to each league.The two wild card teams in each league would then face each other in either a one-game playoff or a best-of-3 series, with the winner moving on to face the number-one seed.

If the new playoff set-up had been in place this season, we would have had two epic pennant races in the American League. Instead of coasting to the finish line, the seven games between the Yankees and Rays in the final two weeks would have meant something as both teams would have battled for the first-round bye.

Meanwhile, the White Sox and Red Sox would have been a game apart with three to play for the final Wild Card spot. In the end, the Red Sox and Yankees would have faced each other in a 3-game series with the winner taking on the Rays in the ALDS.

In the National League, things would have been even more chaotic than they already were with five teams battling for three spots and first-round byes. The Padres and the Braves would have gone head-to-head in a best-of-three series with a chance to face the Phillies in the NLDS.

Of course, in order for playoff three things must happen.

  1. The schedule needs to be reduced to 154 games, with the final week of September to be used for the Wild Card series and the beginning of the LDS. This is a point conceded by both Selig and the union. But will the owners go for it? Will they be willing to give up revenue from four home games for a slightly increased chance of making the playoffs?
  2. Selig needs to finally get serious about realignment. Divisions with differing number of teams is fine when the Wild Card team is treated as an equal. But if the division winners are going to get a first-round bye, all teams need an equal shot at winning their division.
  3. Major League Baseball needs to go back to a balanced-schedule. Again, if more weight is going to be given to teams wining their division, MLB can’t have scenarios where some teams play the Red Sox and Yankees 38 times and other teams play them 16 times.

Expanding the playoffs is going to happen and it will be great for the sport. But Selig and MLB have some work to do before they can think about implementing the change next season.

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