MLB Playoff Format: Changes to Postseason Devalue Regular Season

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2012

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers watches the action from the dugout during Game Two of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park on October 7, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Athletics 5-4.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

One of the great Bud Selig rallying cries for expanding the Major League Baseball postseason to include two Wild Card teams per league was that it would make the regular season more exciting for fans. Just one year in, it's safe to say that hasn't exactly been the case. 

It's easy to see where Selig was coming from when trying to put more teams in the playoffs: The more teams you have competing for a playoff spot, the more likely it is that attendance will increase, particularly late in the season. Another point that seemed to be in Selig's favor was that there would be a greater emphasis put on winning the division to avoid a one-game wild-card playoff. 

But more teams doesn't necessarily equal more drama. You only have to go back to the final day of 2011 for proof of that. There were four games, two in each league, with postseason implications on that day, and you had people talking about it as the greatest day of baseball in the history of the sport. 

This year, there were four American League teams all within one game of each other on the final day. You had Oakland and Texas matching up head-to-head with the same record to settle the Western Division championship. It could have been a day that rivaled September 28, 2011. 

Instead, with the Yankees, Orioles, Rangers and A's already locked into playoff spots, all they were really battling for was positioning. There could be some drama in that, but not nearly enough to get people going crazy like they did a year ago. 

Plus, the way the 2012 postseason has been laid out doesn't really benefit anyone. 

Some people might try to tell you that the wild-card playoff is no different than two teams having to play an extra regular-season game to get into the postseason, but that's not true. It goes down in the history books as a postseason appearance, but you only have one game to show what you are capable of doing. 

Baseball is not the NFL. With 162 games to jockey for position during the regular season, it is not a game that should be decided in a one-game scenario. It should at least be a best-of-three series to determine who moves onto the divisional playoffs. 

Second, where is the benefit to division winners if they have to play their first two games on the road against teams with an inferior record?

This was just a one-year experiment due to MLB changing the format so late in the offseason, but the teams who have to deal with it right now have been largely impacted. 

We are obviously looking at things through revisionist goggles, but does anyone think it's fair that the 88-win Detroit Tigers got to open up their series with the 94-win Oakland A's in Comerica Park?

The Tigers were 50-31 at home this season, but just 38-43 on the road. They do still have to win on the road, but just one game, as opposed to two or even three.

We don't know how Oakland or Detroit would have fared if they had opened their series in Oakland, but there is no reason they should have started in Detroit because of Selig's desire to push this format for this season. 

If more playoff teams were supposed to result in more drama and competition for fans to latch onto, why does it feel like everything we've seen in the first four days of the postseason has come at the expense of the past six months?