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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Six Modest Proposals: A Reply to Rob Manfred

(Co-author’s Note: Despite my name alone being displayed under the title, and the viewpoint the text will assume, this article is a collaboration with my friend and occasional THT contributor Paul Golba. The ideas originate mainly with him; the writing originates with me.)

Nobody can accuse Rob Manfred of being unwilling to try fresh ideas. In an offseason that already saw several rules changes to MLB, the Commissioner floated a proposal for a massive change to the sport’s playoff structure. The plan reportedly won raves from television networks that might be in a position to air games from the augmented playoff schedule, as well as from MLB Network’s Bob Costas. Reaction from actual fans has been decidedly more mixed.

In Manfred’s plan, there would be three division winners and four Wild Cards in each league. The team with the best record in each league would have a first-round bye. The second-best division winner would then choose its first-round opponent from the three lowest Wild Cards, followed by the remaining division winner getting next choice. (These choices would be made on a live broadcast.) The top Wild Card would get the leftover opponent. The teams would play best-of-three series, with the higher seed hosting all three games. The winners would join the bye teams in the League Division round, and the postseason would proceed as it does now.

Matt Swartz made a prompt reply to the Manfred proposal on our pages, offering his ideas for how to run an expanded playoff system. That article was still in the future, though, when I had my first discussion of the matter with Paul Golba, my frequent co-Grand Tourist and periodic co-author. We shared a dislike for the scheme, though not everything it proposed rubbed either of us the wrong way.

Rob Manfred is willing to consider eating Irish children as a solution to any and all problems concerning Major League Baseball.

QLE Posted: March 10, 2020 at 01:29 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: double duty, final four, manfred is thinking about it, nascar, playoffs, soccer

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   1. Cleveland (need new name) fan Posted: March 10, 2020 at 11:33 AM (#5929212)
A thousand times no on these stupid proposals. If you make the playoffs, then modulo home field advantage, you are in the playoffs and should have the same landscape as all the other teams. If you don't want wild card teams to win the WS, then don't have wild card teams instead of artificially imposing nonsensical handicaps on them until they becomes so burdensome that the wild card teams can't win. If nothing else, its boring because you know that its meaningless. No reason to tune in until the real playoff start. Another simple rule is that all teams in the playoffs get a home game to reward their fans.

Here is an equivalent proposal from another sport and you tell me if you think it makes much sense. In the Olympic 100 dash, the winners of the 2 semi-final heats line up at the normal starting position. The second place finishers* start 3 yards further back, the third place finishers start 5 yards back and finally the fourth place finishers start 7 yards back. Does this make an interesting competition?

*Cross country skiing has an event, pursuit, which uses this format (replacing distance with time) so it does have its place.
   2. Cris E Posted: March 10, 2020 at 11:40 AM (#5929214)
The sprinters should run the same distance to preserve the integrity of the race, but lower seeds should have a number of small stones placed in their shoes.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: March 10, 2020 at 11:51 AM (#5929222)
Instead of dragging two of the division winners into the Wild Card round, we’ll leave it entirely to the Wild Cards. The four Wild Cards face off — No. 1 hosting No. 4, and No. 2 hosting No. 3 — in single games. The winners face off in one more game, with the winner of that contest advancing to the League Championship Series.

I assume this should mean advance directly to the Division Series, because otherwise I can't figure out how this would work.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: March 10, 2020 at 12:09 PM (#5929233)
He also ripped off my idea for a Baseball Cup. Good luck getting anyone else on board.

   5. mathesond Posted: March 10, 2020 at 12:40 PM (#5929244)
Why not have 15 divisions of 2 teams each? then you have 15 playoff teams, none of which is a wild card. Top 3 division winners get 1st round byes, and they go on from there.
   6. ReggieThomasLives Posted: March 10, 2020 at 01:23 PM (#5929254)
I still say we should have a second playoffs run concurrently with the actual playoffs, so teams that don't make the playoffs have something to play for. Give them a money, a cup, better draft positioning, whatever, this way we can start the playoffs sooner and make late season games meaningful for every team.
   7. Karl from NY Posted: March 10, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5929281)
There is one point that makes sense - that the 2 and 3 seeds choose their opponents from among the wild cards. That's to avoid gamesmanship where you might try to deliberately lose your way into a lower seed to get a different matchup. Suppose #6 just traded for this year's Verlander while #5's ace just got hurt, and you get the idea that you'd rather be #4 playing #5 than #3 playing #6. Best to cut past that and let the higher seed choose directly.

This didn't happen in baseball before because every seed had a distinction - #1 hosts a team that had to go through the WC game, #2 plays #3 but gets home field, #4 plays #5 but gets home field.
   8. Rusty Priske Posted: March 10, 2020 at 02:23 PM (#5929285)
I really like the current model. It means something to win the division. The Wild Cards have a tougher road. Perfect.

   9. Ron J Posted: March 10, 2020 at 03:27 PM (#5929295)
#8 Well you do avoid a best of 1 (obviously this matters) but beyond this if there is any importance to a potential extra home game it's pretty much undetectable -- swamped by various other factors.
   10. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: March 10, 2020 at 03:36 PM (#5929297)
Any team losing a playoff game also loses a roster spot for the rest of the series and both managers have to agree on who the player is who gets dropped and if they can't agree then they have a best-of-7 rock-paper-scissors showdown to determine which player is cut and if the team leading the playoff series loses the rock-paper-scissors series then the team leading the playoff series also has to lose a roster spot and both managers have to agree on who gets cut from the roster and if they can't agree then they have a best-of-3 sudden-death rock-paper-scissors series to determine which player is cut from the team that won the game but lost the previous rock-paper-scissors series.

Nice. Easy. Pay-per-view friendly. Opens up betting opportunities for prop bets on who gets cut as well as each rock-paper-scissors outcome as well as the entire series of matchups. The kids will love it. Such as obvious solution to baseball's playoff ratings problems. Win-win-win!
   11. Buck Coats Posted: March 10, 2020 at 06:59 PM (#5929329)
I really like the current model. It means something to win the division. The Wild Cards have a tougher road. Perfect.

Agreed, while I'd prefer the "2 division winners, no WC" (aka pre-94) system, I definitely prefer the current "2 WCs have a play-in game" to the previous "1 WC"

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