There was a lot of talk this past weekend about the way MLB does its playoffs. The series between the Red Sox and the Yankees was given as the perfect example of why the system needs revamping. I agree, the system needs work. I’ve already given my idea of how to fix it. Since I have offered my own idea, I’m allowed to pick apart everyone else’s. So, here it goes.
The idea that has been tossed out as almost a certainty is to add another Wild Card spot. The two wild cards would then play each other as a play-in game of sorts. Whether it would be a single game play-in or a series is up for debate. The reasons given for it? It will increase excitement and give more weight to winning the division. That’s why this Red Sox- Yankees series seemed to be the perfect example. The two teams were a game apart in the division, but a comfortable distance ahead of everyone else for the Wild Card. So, this series meant very little since both teams looked to have very secure playoff chances. Terry Francona even stated that he didn’t think going for the division was worth not having a set pitching rotation come playoff time. So, those in favor of the new system went crazy. “See?” they cried. We need to make winning the division worth more. So, we need to change it so that they won’t have to play that extra round. “See?” they yelled. We need more wild card slots so that more teams and their fans will have the excitement of a playoff hunt.
You want to make winning the division more important? Eliminate the wild card. Don’t add more. If only the division winners made the playoffs, wouldn’t that make winning the division pretty important? The rest of it is just a phony attempt to make it look like they care about competition, but really just want a way to make more money.
As for adding more excitement, that’s not true either. Tampa Bay won the division last year. How many sell-outs have the Rays had in a row? Boston missed the playoffs last year. How many sell-outs have the Red Sox had in a row? You want to know what makes baseball exciting? Quality teams. At the very least, even teams. You know what adding anther Wild Card will do? Give one more opportunity to not bother fielding a quality team and still make the playoffs. It’s an excuse to keep the status quo, and not have to worry about it. Will a mid-market team even try to improve its club if it can still make the playoffs six years in a row? Why make the effort?
If your actual concern is to get more teams and fans involved in the playoffs, then follow my idea. No matter how many playoff slots you give, there’s always going to be someone who was close to getting one, but didn’t. There’s always going to be a year where the top five teams are comfortably ahead of that sixth team. There’s always a line, and always someone on either side of it.
You really want to add excitement to baseball and it’s playoffs? The answer is a salary cap of some form. The only way to make every team exciting is to make them all even. That’s the only way to make sure that everyone is included in the hunt. MLB seems satisfied to just make the hunt include everyone.
What if it went to that extreme, just to illustrate? What if all 30 teams made the playoffs. Would there really be excitement as the teams battled it out to see who lost to the Red Sox? Is that exciting? Aren’t there always going to be only a couple superior teams that everyone knows should win? No matter how man wild card teams they create?
Once again MLB seems determined to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. And it won’t work. You want to know how I know? Because they tried this already when they added the first Wild Card. It was going to increase fan interest. It was going to save the game.
Then why are we doing it again?