Monday, March 5, 2012

On wild-card play-ins

It's official now: The baseball postseason will feature the six division winners, plus four wild card teams, two from each league, with the wild card teams playing one-game play-ins.

This idea caught momentum last winter as the new labor deal was being worked on. I would prefer a system that doesn't let a second-place team have any chance at the big prize, but I recognize that rocket has left the launch pad. This format figures to provide more incentive for teams to win their division rather than settle for a wild-card berth. That's a plus.

Ron Gardenhire, and doubtless others, dislikes the idea of being ousted from the postseason with just one loss. Tough. The teams facing that possibility will face it because they finished second.

The perfect system, as far as I'm concerned, for crowning the baseball champion was abandoned in 1969 with the advent of division play. For 67 years, the team that had the best record in the two leagues advanced directly to the World Series. But even in the days of eight-team leagues, it was difficult to sell tickets to an eighth-place team, and it just got worse with expansion.

Divisions and wild cards are a ruse to keep more teams in the running. That devalues the regular season. The more teams in the playoffs, the worse the devaluation. Making the postseason more difficult for the marginal teams might be a step toward restoring some of that value.

No comments:

Post a Comment