Things That Make Baseball “Purists” Squirm: Volume I
When I wrote that last piece essentially proclaiming MLB Commissioner Bud Selig the antichrist of baseball, it sort of took on a life of its own. Originally I had intended to write about the announced expansion of the MLB playoffs to 10 teams (kind of), but it evolved into a massive brow beating of Bud Selig as a result of the increasingly dire stadium situation for the Oakland Athletics. So, I figured it would be worthwhile to follow up on that original thought, and explore some other potential seismic shifts in MLB in a new series entitled Things That Make Baseball “Purists” Squirm.
I could feel Bob Costas’s teeth grinding when it was announced last week that MLB would be expanding its playoffs to 10 teams. I tend to think this stretches the definition of what the playoffs are, since this new format creates a 1 game playoff between the top 2 wild card teams in each league, with the winner moving on to face the top seeded team (no matter what division they play in, unlike the prior seeding rules).
This “round” of the playoffs reduces a marathon-esque 162 game season to a single game, where weird fluky things can happen and a clearly better team can have their championship dreams dashed in a couple hours.
Some might say that has been the case every time there happens to be a tie at the end of the regular season. Most definitely not. In the case of a 1 game tiebreaker, it is happening because a pennant race simply couldn’t be decided in 162 games. Some of the game’s classic moments have taken place during 1 game tiebreakers (Bucky F@#$%&# Dent, Matt Holliday, etc…). Every pitch is filled with tension, the games are simply great baseball theater. What this new format has done is force that theater to take place twice every season. Ultimately I believe this will diminish the drama of the event when a tiebreaker takes place.
Ideally, I would have the 2 wild card teams square off in a 3 game series, that way some of the true flukiness that is destined to take place can be eliminated. The idea that a team can in essence erase a deficit of 2, 3, 4, or however many games by simply beating the team they’ve been chasing once, is going to cheapen the pennant races. I get the idea that it will keep that many more teams in the race for a playoff spot, and MLB assumes that will equal higher attendance in those cities, and therefore more revenue. Honestly I don’t have a problem with the concept as a whole, the execution is simply short sighted. They could hold the 3 game series in the wild card leader’s home ballpark, if the wild card runner up wants to eliminate the leader, they’ll have to beat them in their house. I think that would be a fair compromise, MLB would get its theoretical revenue increase, and the wild card winner won’t have their playoff hopes dashed because of one off day.
On the next edition of TTMBPS, we delve into perhaps the most contentious debate in baseball, the designated hitter. NL fans and Bob Costas are sure to get all riled up about this one.