I’m a bit of a baseball purist. I think both the designated hitter and interleague play were bad for the game. So, naturally, when I first heard of the plans for an expanded playoffs I was horrified. “Isn’t one wild card team enough?” I thought. I wondered whether Bud Selig would finally ruin baseball for good. Since then I’ve reconsidered my position.
...Adding a team makes baseball’s playoffs more like other sports both by increasing the number of teams and adding an instant elimination round (perhaps a concession to the commercial success of the NFL’s playoffs, but also perhaps the best way to make adding an extra wild card team work). But that one-game round also gives division winning teams more of an advantage over the two wild card teams — who will likely start their best pitcher in a must-win situation, likely making him unavailable for the first game of the Divisional Series. There’s something to be said for this.
By incentivizing winning the division, the new format makes pennant races more exciting (and this year’s AL East race is shaping up to be a good one). This is something that has been mostly lacking in baseball in the Wild Card Era. Sure, there have been great pennant races, but their importance was greatly diminished when the second place team in that division would simply win the wild card; think of all those years where the Yankees and Red Sox won both the division and wild card spots to inevitably meat up in the ALCS. How much were those teams gunning to win the division down the stretch, and how much were they thinking that they just needed to stay sharp and focus on the playoffs?
So although I was skeptical at first, I’ve come around on the expanded playoffs. It’s an imperfect system, but still better than the one it is replacing. And while it’s easy to resist change in the name of tradition, the truth is baseball has always been an evolving game (and the playoffs as they currently exist aren’t much of a tradition anyway). Give the new system a chance and it may just win you over.
Posted: September 04, 2012 at 04:42 PM | 34 comment(s)
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