Oct 23, 2008; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Bud Selig (left) speaks to reporters before game two of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

New Playoff format, adds 2 Wild Cards... but, Bud, can't we get a better deal?

MLB will expand the playoffs this season; so how does it affect the Sox?

The good news for the Red Sox Nation is that, if the new structure was in place last season, the Sox would have qualified for a one-game play-off:

“Indeed, the memorable finish to the 2011 season never would have occurred if the playoff field had consisted of 10 teams;

both the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves would have qualified as second wild cards

rather than fall victim to historic collapses.” [Ken Rostenthal, Fox]

The bad news for the Red Sox Nation is that, with the new rules in place for 2012…

“The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will proceed to the postseason almost automatically, but only one of those teams would qualify as a division champion.

The other would face the terrifying prospect of a one-and-done.

[Ken Rostenthal, Fox]

Winning the AL East division pennant now has greater significance, or, to borrow Bud’s lame line about the World Series: “Now it really counts!” 

“Teams will scramble like crazy to win their divisions. The wild card teams will be at a true disadvantage, burning their best pitchers in the playoff game, and maybe to qualify for that game as well.” [Rosenthal]

Bob Nightengale [USA TODAY] summarized the new format:

“Adding a second wild-card team from each league. The winner of the one-game playoff between the two wild-card entrants will face the team with the league’s best record in the Division Series. The expansion is designed in part to place a greater reward to the six division winners.”

Another important new rule will mean that the Sox, Rays, and Yankees could all qualify for the post-season:

“The new postseason format will eliminate the rule that teams from the same division can no longer face one another in the first round.” Bob Nightengale [USA TODAY]

If we accept the concept of playoffs, why not skip the interim steps in the process and go right to the model used by the NBA and NHL?

Many of us in the Neo-Traditionalist camp still make the philosophical point that, baseball was designed to be like a marathon race, to reward the team that could succeed over a 162-game course.

With the advent of the playoff model, it is more like the 12 cross country runners, who finish in the top 20 of a 30-man, 162-mile race; then, after a few gulps of water, the exhausted 12 form into 6 two-man races,  50-yard dash.  The 6 winners then go up against rested runners, in a 100-yard dash race.  Then, the last two standing, run a quarter-mile race for the championship.  [Another Bud Selig "half-fast" solution.]

For future changes in the playoffs, consider two factors:

Except for Toronto Blue Jay fans, players and their supporters hate baseball in the winter.  The 154-game schedule was sacrosanct, until they changed to 162 games.  Let’s change that number again; this time let’s go the other direction and play fewer games in the regular season.  Attendance?  The person or family who attends X games per season will not cut back on the number, but will simply fit the number into the new schedule.  All those games with 50-70% of seats filled will become near sell-outs.

You start your calendar on the day you want to play the 7th game of the World Series; say, October 15th and work backwards to April 15th and see how many games will fit.

Second point; forget this one-and-done drama.   It’s a long regular season for a reason and any team that makes the playoffs should have a chance to prove its mettle in 7 games, not 5, not 1.

Since there are an odd number of divisions in each league (3) some kind of wrinkle will need to be inserted to attempt equity.  The Selig one-game and done method is not the answer.

Bud, the NBA, NHL and even the Patrician Tennis League has figured it out; it’s called “seeding,” or ranking.

The top 4 teams in each of your six divisions qualify for the playoffs in a 7-game series.

First place team gets the 4-3 home advantage and plays 4th place team in a 7-game series; second place team gets the 4-3 home advantage plays 3rd place team in a 7-game series.

The winners of this round play each other in a 7-game series with the team with the best regular season record getting the 4-3 home advantage.

Now we have 6 division champions for the next round.  Here comes the wrinkle.

Of the 3 remaining teams in each League, the team with the best winning percentage in the regular season gets a bye.  [OK, it's better than the Bud Plan.]

The remaining two division winners play each other in a 7-game series with the team with the best regular season record getting the 4-3 home advantage.

The bye team  with the 4-3 home advantage, plays the winner of that series in a 7-game series to determine the League Champion, which goes to the World Series.

In the World Series, forget that All-Star game winner nonsense, and give the team with the best regular season record the 4-3 home advantage.

Using a 7-game structure is the best way to mimic in miniature the long season; it allows a higher statistical chance that the best team should prevail. In every series along the way, the team with the best regular season record gets the 4-3 home advantage, rewarding the teams that play hardest.

The proposed method would require four 7-game rounds.  Allowing about 10 days per round, we are looking at 40 days of playoff baseball after the regular season; roughly speaking, seven weeks.

Using the April 15 to October 15 calendar to include regular season and playoffs, we have about 6 months.  This results in a regular season of about 4+ months  [100-108 games] and a playoff season of just under 2 months.  To make the regular season meaningful, the winning percentage of teams during the regular season will be used to determine who get 4-3 home advantage in that round of the playoffs and World Series. [NOTE: The most games any team would play in a combined regular and playoff season would be about 128-136 games.]

Of the 30 teams in MLB 24 will make it to the playoffs; four months may be a reasonable length of time to eliminate 6 teams.  It allows eight weeks to schedule about 7 weeks of playoffs and, using the current 7-game and two travel days format, it means you have 9 days per series; 4 series requiring 36 days.  Seven weeks from the last day of the regular season is 49 days.  Thus, you have 49 days to accommodate 36 days.  This would allow for rain-outs or more travel days, or days between series.

Yes, this is a tough thing to swallow for we Neo-Traditionalists; but, once you are resigned to the fact that the players’ union and the owners are going into a playoff format, we can at least try to structure it to include 7-game series and tilt the odds to favor the teams with the best regular season records.

Of course some of us Neo-Traditionalists would return to the original two leagues, each with 8 teams; we would combine the 30 franchises and create a AAAA league for those players who did not make the roster of the 16 MLB teams; maybe assign 4-A franchises to some of the cities that lost teams. [Oakland would also lose the Raiders to Los Angeles, again.  The Al Davis Memorial Mausoleum would become a cemetery for Raider and A's fans.]   To balance the Oakland/LA shift, the Dodgers would have to move back to Brooklyn.  And an exact replica of Ebbets Field would be built on the original site.  And we’d roll the ticket prices back to 1957. And…and…and…


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Tags: Al Davis Atlanta Braves Bob Nightengale Brooklyn Dodgers Bud Selig Bye Ebbets Field Format FOX Los Angeles NBA Neo-Traditionalists New York Yankees NHL Oakland A's Oakland Raiders Players Union Playoffs Raiders Regular Season Seed Seeded Toronto Blue Jays USA TODAY Winning Percentage World Series [Ken Rostenthal

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