Let me begin by saying…it ain’t broke.
But for some reason, Bud Selig still wants to try to fix the Major League Baseball playoffs.
So Mr. Selig, here’s my humble suggestion on the most interesting and (perhaps more important) financially beneficial way to improve baseball’s playoffs.
Now, there have been a few ideas thrown around, such as adding teams to expand the playoffs to 10 teams rather the current system which employs eight.
Forget about all that.
Put everyone in. Every single team…including Pittsburgh but, with certain ground rules in place.
Hockey has its Game 7's. We hear all about them from the waning days of April until early June. Baseball can capture that atmosphere by putting the remaining teams in each division into a single elimination playoff for the AL and NL Wild Cards.
First, the major leagues need to keep the current three division format. The three division winners in each league automatically qualify for the postseason playoffs. For all their hard work, they’re rewarded with a week off from games to rest, recuperate and really, really enjoy a week of riveting, do-or-die, March Madness style playoff baseball the likes of which we’ve rarely ever seen.
Using last season’s final standings, here’s a look at how the playoff matchups that would’ve been.
With 13 teams remaining in the National League, play would begin on the Monday after the regular season ends. Last year, the first-round matchups would have been as follows.
No. 9 Houston at No. 8 Milwaukee, with the winner travelling to Atlanta to play Tuesday. The winners of No. 13 Pittsburgh at No. 4 Colorado and No. 12 Arizona at No. 5 Los Angeles meeting at the highest remaining seed’s home park on Tuesday. No. 11 Washington at No. 6 Florida (winner travels to No. 3 St. Louis on Tuesday), and No.10 Chicago at No. 7 New York (winner travels to No. 2 San Diego on Tuesday).
In the American League there would be 11 teams vying for the Wild Card, which means only three play-in games, all played on Tuesday. No.11 Seattle at No. 6 Detroit (winner travels to No.1 New York on Wednesday). No. 10 Baltimore at No. 7 Los Angeles (winner travels to No. 3 Chicago on Wednesday), and No. 9 Kansas City at No. 8 Cleveland (winner travels to No. 2 Boston on Wednesday). No. 5 Oakland would play at No. 4 Toronto on Wednesday.
From there, it’s essentially a Game 7 every day, with the winner in each league’s Wild Card getting a few days rest before the playoffs begin on Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week.
There, pros outweigh the cons. There’s extra revenue for the host teams, ridiculous ratings for ESPN, MLB Network and TBS. The only major flaw is the extra exposure to the broadcasting talents (or lack thereof) of Chip Caray, who likes to proclaim base hits on line drives that are eventually caught.
Think about the pitching matchups. Or the possible tanking down the stretch of the last week in hopes of getting a more favorable first-round draw (a la the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA who actually wanted to play top seeded San Antonio in the first round).
Think of the gambling possibilities. A long shot with terrible odds of winning on Opening Day suddenly has a legitimate shot at paying off in October.
Of course, all this is depends on the man in charge doing something in an effort to make things better for baseball. Under his watch, we’ve had a cancelled World Series and an ugly player strike, a MAJOR steroids scandal that has tarnished the game and left us all doubting players like Jose Bautista, who is probably doing things the right way, but because of people like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and yes, even Alex Rodriguez, will always do so with at least a shadow of a doubt.
Selig has done some good things too.
He’s curbed expansion, brought us Interleague Play and added instant replay to home run calls. And contrary to popular opinion, baseball is actually thriving.
But as I said before, the playoffs ain’t broke.
So, why is Bud Selig trying to fix them at all?