Hank Steinbrenner Is Right

Ryan HoganCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2008

Hank Steinbrenner could say the sky is blue and people would disagree. Yankee hatred has the habit of clouding one’s judgment.

So it was no surprise that when Steinbrenner, in a recent Sporting News article, lamented over the MLB’s playoff system, accusing it of being unfair, he received unanimous criticism.

Yet once again, pundits are clouded by Yankee hatred, for Steinbrenner is absolutely correct.

Major league baseball’s playoff system is unfair and needs to be fixed.

Steinbrenner argues that the current playoff system prevents the best teams from making the postseason.

He’s right.

This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers made the National League playoffs with only 84 victories, thanks to a weak N.L. West. Meanwhile, three teams outside of the N.L. West had better records but are watching the postseason from home because they didn’t win their division or the wild card.

In the American League, the Yankees suffered a similar humiliation. That’s bad for baseball.

Steinbrenner’s solution is to eliminate the divisions and send the top four teams from each league to the postseason. While the two leagues have historical significance, the six divisions do not. There are enough games to satisfy rivalries, and with modern transportation technology, travel distances are no longer an issue.

With the divisions eliminated, the four best teams from each league are assured playoff berths, the importance of the regular season is fortified and the integrity of the World Series strengthened.

The elimination of the divisions, especially the always tough A.L East, means baseball’s most important team, the New York Yankees, has a better chance to make the postseason on an annual basis. With the Yankees consistently in the playoffs, the league benefits financially and avoids the embarrassment of not having its richest franchise in the postseason. That’s good for baseball.

Whether you cheer or jeer the Yankees, you must agree with Hank Steinbrenner. Major League Baseball’s current playoff system is unfair, infuriating, and illogical.

Keep in mind that, if Steinbrenner’s playoff system were used this year, the postseason would have included the television-friendly Yankees and Mets, as well as the feel-good, but ratings-killing, Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers. That’s even better for baseball.