As I posted on Twitter (@JLBurnfin) earlier, MLB still has not announced the official postseason format for THIS year. It’s actually kind of shocking (and also an addendum on how far behind baseball is compared to football; can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if the NFL went into mini-camps without knowing the playoff format?) Anyways, the problem is that many MLB owners are a little hesitant to the change (as old men usually are) while Bud Selig is very aggressive in getting it done. Selig wants five teams to qualify for the playoffs with the two “wildcards” having to play a one-game playoff to move on to the Divisional Playoffs.
Many of baseball’s insiders believe that it will get done by the arbitrary March 1 deadline. So if that is the case, I am excited to see how it plays out. I love the idea because of the fact that some of the most memorable games are those one-game playoffs between tied teams at the end of the season: Rockies-Padres 2007 where Matt Holliday slide into home “on” his face to score (sort-of) the winning run and Twins-Tigers in 2009. The idea of a one-game, winner take all is what makes March Madness and the NFL playoffs so exciting; and it is something that when baseball is able to capture that theory and put it into the playoffs, it should be a good thing for the sport.
There are a few problems that may pop up though. Does it push the playoffs further into November? I know it is only one game but scheduling-wise, it could be a nightmare. It is possible it could add up to three days to the playoff schedule. Will it so severely handicap the wildcards that we won’t see those types of teams make a deep run into the playoffs anymore? They will have to expend their best pitcher instead of resting them for game one of the Divisional Series. Finally, is it really fair to give the three divisional teams a semi-bye and the advantage that comes along with NOT having to play that game? It seems like every year there is one division winner with a worse record than a wildcard. It creates competitive unbalance to reward a team with a worse record that advantage and force a possible better team to play one more game. So, right now, I am cautiously for it, but we will have to see all the details once an agreement has been made.