Realignment is a fascinating idea, but one that I believe will lose out to another adjustment: playoff expansion.
Expansion will drive more revenue to the game and keep the fans enthralled for an extended period.
Realignment is entertaining when you think about it. Then again, an extended playoff system seems more justifiable at this point. Extending the playoffs with a wild card team worked before, and it will work again.
There are a few scenarios to this new situation.
- Will the team with the best record earn a bye to the next round?
- Will the two wild card teams battle each other in a best-of-three, best-of-five, or perhaps a one-game sudden death playoff?
All those aside, why even think about bringing in an extra team? Is baseball on a collision course with watering down the regular season the way the NBA and NHL have with over half of the teams eligible to make the playoffs (16 of 30)?
In my opinion, not even close.
According to the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, playoff teams generate $17.7 million in additional revenue.
“The Angels reported $12.1 million in revenue from hosting five first and second-round playoff games in 2009 and nearly $4.4 million for hosting two first-round games in 2008, according to the reports published by Deadspin.com.
“The Rays made almost $17.7 million in revenue on the six postseason games they hosted in 2008. Having two home games in the World Series helped boost those results”
And for the small market or second-tier teams like the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, $2.2 million per home game sounds pretty decent.
From the fans' perspective, there is nothing more entertaining/dramatic than a good ole’ fashion pennant race to end the season. And being a Braves fan myself, every game was life or death during the last two weeks of the 2010 season.
Commissioner Bud Selig recently talked expansion with NBC Sports and NY Daily News, meaning the wheels are most certainly in motion. Unfortunately, it looks like the expansion will not happen for at least two seasons. As you know, there are always a few obstacles.
“Selig would not rule out expanded playoffs as soon as next season, and the new format could include two new wild-card teams. Wild-card teams in each league could play an opening round, either one game or best-of-three”
“But any changes would be subject to collective bargaining, and Rob Manfred, MLB's executive VP for labor relations, said Tuesday that putting any changes in so soon would be too difficult. So any playoff expansion is more likely for 2012, if at all.”
Two wild cards teams suggest that franchises that usually pack it in by the all-star break do not necessarily become sellers; they can keep their stars. On the other hand, they do not necessarily become buyers unless it is absolutely essential.
Teams like the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays to name a few, are stuck in the same cycle of selling off their players or regrettably seeing themselves out of the playoff picture, not mathematically, but realistically by July every single season.
The addition of the second wild card does give these clubs some extra hope where it never existed before. Some teams, like I mentioned, can keep their home grown talent instead of trading them for some future prospects that continue to keep said team three to four years away from competing.
Building a roster and building a solid fan base that will continue to see their hometown team compete with home grown talent is what we are all hoping for. At the same time, clinching a playoff berth leads to additional advertisement revenue and an increase and retention of season ticket purchases and the reputation as a legitimate contender.
This new playoff system will succeed. It will allow the growth and popularity of the sport to blossom.
Not all change is bad in a sport that we all know for its familiarity.
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective