MLB Playoff Expansion: Why One-Game Wild Card Playoff Isn't MLB's Best Move
Playoff expansion has its pros and cons.
I think it is obvious that including more teams (within reason) would be beneficial for the game. The more teams that make the playoffs, the more revenue there would be for teams and more baseball for fans.
But it's equally obvious that there are pitfalls, such as extending play deeper into the cold and rainy months of October and November.
If we look at this subject on a deeper level, baseball would have to consider either a one-game, winner-take-all approach or another series, likely a best-of-three.
The latter scenario not only adds more days to the schedule but more travel. It would likely be set up as a home-away-home format for the team with the better record (or for the winner of a coin toss, if records are identical). There would also have to be an off-day stuck in there, so we're talking potentially four extra days and three travel days for at least one of the teams involved.
This could be avoided if baseball trims games off the regular season schedule, a highly unlikely scenario. For all these reasons a one-game playoff now becomes the best option for avoiding an extended wait for the World Series.
I feel that adding the wild card was great for the game, mostly because I don't like divisions. We've seen wild-card teams with superior records to those of division winners. We've also seen teams with better records than division winners miss out because another team in their league got the sole wild-card spot.
What should baseball do?
For that reason, adding a second wild-card team would be a good thing; it would reduce the chances of deserving teams missing out because they play in tougher divisions.
Does a one-game playoff reward these playoff teams fairly though, and achieve the goals of baseball the business?
The Yankees won the American League Wild Card last season with a record of 95-67 in an extremely tough AL East. Had this new format been in place, the Red Sox would have been the second wild card, with a record of 89-73.
Hold the cries of agony about another Yanks-Sox game for a moment and consider that the Rangers won five fewer games than the Yankees (90) in a weak AL West. It wouldn't be a shock if the Sox snuck out of New York winning that one game playoff.
While some will be quick to point out that this proposal aims to ensure playoff berths for both Boston and New York, thereby boosting television revenues, it could easily backfire were that even true.
Does baseball really want to risk having the Yankees bounced by a small market team like the Twins or Indians in a one-game format? In this scenario, is the potential addition of the Red Sox worth the potential premature bouncing of the Yanks?
A one-game format could actually cost baseball money and incur the wrath of fans. As a fan myself, I'd love to see a team like the Twins sneak in and make a run all the way to the Commissioner's Trophy.
I don't think small market ratings, however, are what baseball will have in mind when they decide on this.
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