The MLB has long featured a classic playoff format. However, the recent changes, most of which taking effect in the 2012 Postseason, have messed with success in all the wrong ways.
As the game evolves, like any other, changes are inevitable. What is up for debate is whether or not those very changes actually bring about a positive result as intended.
There are three aspects of the MLB's new playoff format should be re-addressed sooner rather than later.
Despite having home field advantage against the Tigers, the A's played their first two games on the road, started the series down 2-0.
New to the MLB Postseason format, effective this season, is the reworking of the division series home field advantage. Now, to cut back on traveling for the teams coming off of a one-game Wild Card play-in game, the lower-ranked team hosts the first two games, then plays the final three on the road.
This particular change was not as publicized as that of the Wild Card additions, but has the potential to have a huge affect on the playoff picture. Take the Oakland A's for example. As Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune alluded to, the A's were already in a 2-0 hole after the two road games to start the series, and the new format could have had a lot to do with it.
In the case of the A's, who entered the postseason with a full head of steam, there is reason to believe that two games in front of the home crowd to start the series could have turned out quite differently. In a game where momentum in the playoffs is paramount, starting the series down 2-0 is extremely tough to overcome, no matter how many of the following games are to be played at home.
The higher seeded teams across the league are likely not happy that they have had to start their series with two games on the road, as it makes the home field advantage that they have earned much less of an advantage. Until this format is changed, much will likely be made of any higher-seeded team that falls behind early in the series, and eventually has their postseason ended. It would not be surprising in the least if following the season, the MLB were to make such changes and go back to the regular 2-2-1 schedule for the division series.
The 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals enjoyed home field advantage despite finishing the regular season with a record 6 games behind that of the Texas Rangers.
Again, we see an issue of home-field advantage coming to the forefront, but this time in a different fashion. With home-field advantage in the World Series being determined by the result of the mid-season All-Star game, the very teams playing in the Fall Classic have little effect on which.
When the league put this rule into effect, after the debacle of the 2002 All-Star game finishing in a tie, it was done with good intentions. However, the original excitement of the game finally "meaning something" wore off quickly. More importantly, to be considered was the negative effect that the rule has on the most important series of the baseball season.
Now, whether it may be a Wild Card team up against a team with the best record in baseball doesn't matter. If that Wild Card team's league won the All-Star game in July, then they will enjoy home field advantage in the World Series.
Teams work hard throughout both spring training and their 162 regular season games to earn the playoff seeding that they receive. It is ridiculous to say that the best team in baseball could conceivably end up as a road team, in a possible 4-of-7 series games, due to their respective league losing an All-Star exhibition game. Home field advantage is a luxury that the better team over the course of a long and grueling regular season has earned the right to have.
The controversial infield fly call in the Braves-Cardinals one game play-in will forever provide an argument against the new playoff format.
The MLB adding more teams to the postseason was an idea that was wanted among fans for quite some time. While they did add two more qualifying positions for teams starting this year, it may have turned out to be in the wrong way.
As we saw in the Braves-Cardinals one-game Wild Card play-in, anything can happen in one game. The controversial infield fly call may not have altered the final result of the game had it been called differently, but nor do we know that for sure.
Interestingly, as CBSSports' Trent Rosecrans pointed out, Atlanta Braves 3B Chipper Jones saw this kind of situation playing out months prior. Chipper cautioned that in a one-game series, anything (like an umpire's bad call) could influence the overall result. Oddly enough, it was his Braves squad that fell victim to such a situation this season.
Yes, the MLB now technically sees more teams qualifying for its postseason as everyone had hoped for, but it will often be at the cost of the other higher-standing teams. The fact that the first place Wild Card team, whom would immediately have qualified for the best-of-five League Division Series under previous formats, now has a more difficult and unpredictable road to the postseason speaks to such concerns.
Some will call it more exciting, but there is no doubt that the current system, although not even through one season, could use some tinkering. Even small changes, like making the Wild Card play-in a three game series, could have quite positive outcomes.