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Are we being denied one of the great pennant races of all time?


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#1 Philip Jeff Frye


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:50 AM

Under baseball's pre-wildcard playoff system, the Sox and Yanks would be engaged in a terrific pennant race right now. Instead, both are apparently guaranteed a postseason spot and the buzz is around whether its better to finish first and get the home field in the ALCS or second and avoid Verlander. Is this a good thing? Would you prefer a great final two months of back-and-forth pennant race baseball, or the possibility of a 7 game October playoff with the hated Yanks?

I'm fully aware that the Sox probably would not have won the 2004 championship without the wildcard, but I can't say that I'm thrilled that this week's series is not particularly meaningful. Particularly given that this season seems like its going to be largely lacking in September drama across the divisions and in both leagues, I think we might really be missing something special this year.

#2 terrisus


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 08:59 AM

Under baseball's pre-wildcard playoff system, the Sox and Yanks would be engaged in a terrific pennant race right now. Instead, both are apparently guaranteed a postseason spot and the buzz is around whether its better to finish first and get the home field in the ALCS or second and avoid Verlander. Is this a good thing? Would you prefer a great final two months of back-and-forth pennant race baseball, or the possibility of a 7 game October playoff with the hated Yanks?

I'm fully aware that the Sox probably would not have won the 2004 championship without the wildcard, but I can't say that I'm thrilled that this week's series is not particularly meaningful. Particularly given that this season seems like its going to be largely lacking in September drama across the divisions and in both leagues, I think we might really be missing something special this year.


Pretty much, once 1969 came along and the league split into divisions, the "race for the postseason" is not the same as it used to be. For 60+ years it was "Be the best in the league, and go to the World Series." Since then, it has been "It's alright if you weren't the best in the league, there's some playoffs which can get you there."

While obviously the system that was put in place in 1969 stayed as it was for a number of years so that it became common and accepted, but, really, is it any worse for the Red Sox and Yankees, in the same division, to both be (theoretically, obviously there's still time left) guaranteed playoff spots and to be "denied of a pennant race," as compared to, say, two teams in the 1970s who were in different divisions who were both 100-win teams guaranteed of winning their divisions and just preparing for the playoffs, who during the pre-1969 setting would have been fighting tooth and nail down to the last day in the traditional "pennant race" to be able to go to the World Series?

Now, I'm not saying it's perfect as is. There certainly was a great deal of excitement in the one-division format where only the best team in the league went to the World Series. As soon as the league was split up into divisions, though, there was the chance of having two great teams who, previously, would have been engaged in a tight pennant race, who no longer had to be concerned about that, and were just getting ready for the playoffs, and I don't see it being any worse just because the two teams happen to be in the same time zone as opposed to on separate coasts.

#3 PrometheusWakefield


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:25 AM

The best of both worlds possibility is having two wild card teams in each league play each other in a one game do or die wild card round to advance to the divisional series. If that was in place this year, you can be damned sure that the Red Sox and Yankees would both do whatever they could to win the division rather than take a 50/50 shot at the WC, while Anaheim and Tampa Bay would currently be locked in a struggle to claim the second wild card spot. Likewise in the NL, where currently there are basically no playoff races at all barring a San Francisco comeback in the West, the Giants and the Cardinals would both have a legit shot at the second NL wild card.

Typically, there's a tradeoff between adding more playoff spots and making the regular season relevant for the top teams. On the radio the other day I heard people talking about how the Patriots should really be thinking about positioning for the postseason already, before they've even played a game, which lets face it is only about 50% bravado. I would hate to see that happen to baseball. But maybe the 2 wild card teams in a one game match of doom would both add excitement for the top teams while adding excitement for teams currently out of the race.

#4 lexrageorge

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:31 AM

In 1951, when the Giants beat the Dodgers in the Shot Heard Round the World ("The Giants Win the Pennant!! The Giants Win the Pennant!!"), there were 8 teams in each league. When the Red Sox won the pennant in their Impossible Dream Season in 1967, there were still only 10 teams in each league. BTW, that season there were 4 teams in the race into the final week, and 3 teams the final day. It's unlikely we'll ever see that again.

In 1969, the league expanded to 12 teams per league. There are now 30 teams. Picking one team per league when there are so many teams has its own complications, scheduling being one of them. Also, in many years there was no pennant race to speak of; in 1968, Detroit won the AL by over 10 games, and St. Louis by 9. The bottom line is that MLB (and the networks) feel that having 4 playoff teams per league increases the likelihood that a division/wild-card race will happen somewhere. This season is perhaps a bit unusual in that the wild card gaps in both leagues are quite large, and most division leaders have a reasonable cushion entering September, AL West excepted.




#5 tims4wins


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:34 AM

On the radio the other day I heard people talking about how the Patriots should really be thinking about positioning for the postseason already, before they've even played a game, which lets face it is only about 50% bravado. I would hate to see that happen to baseball. But maybe the 2 wild card teams in a one game match of doom would both add excitement for the top teams while adding excitement for teams currently out of the race.

In the NFL, teams have a 37.5% chance of making the playoffs (6/16 in each conference). In MLB, AL teams have a 28.6% chance (4/14), and NL teams have a 25% chance (4/16).

If MLB added a 2nd wild card, AL teams would then have a 35.7% chance of making the playoffs, and NL teams would have a 31.3% chance.

You say that you'd "hate to see that happen to baseball", but with the Sox (and Yankees) advantage in the payroll department, I'd say that their chances of making the baseball playoffs year after year would be much higher than the Pats chances, given the salary cap limitations of the NFL.

#6 twothousandone

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:44 AM

But maybe the 2 wild card teams in a one game match of doom would both add excitement for the top teams while adding excitement for teams currently out of the race.


You've laid out the benefits pretty well. To keep more teams in contention, and more in the post-season (increasing the chances of a wider pool of winners over time), the two trade-offs are: Dominance isn't rewarded with an easier path (PW may have eliminated that, because the WC winner has likely used up its best pitcher in the one-game playoff); and someone gains comfort that makes the regular season less meaningful (maybe that's Philly this year even in a two-WC world, but Atl seems to be closing the gap).

The downside, then, is . . . what it always is when a short series decides championships -- what if the Cardinals squeak in, then beat the Braves in that one game, and upset Philly? The criticism will be the Cardinals didn't really deserve to be there, Philly was the best team in the league, etc. Especially if the Cards beat Ari/Mil and go to the series, to get swept by the Red Sox (this is all hypothetical). A "boring" late October, for everyone but Sox fans, in exchange for exciting Septmeber races.

And, I don't remember the "Dante Bichette" Sox bringing me a lot of enjoyment, even though they were in contention.

#7 trekfan55


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:45 AM

Since the NFL expanded to 4 division and 2 wildcards, the system has produced an incentive to not only winning the division but having the firs round bye. This, in turn, has made many teams not take the foot off the pedal in order to get that week off and play the first divisional game at home.

I know all the purists long for the day when there were no divisions and when the World Series was truly played by the best 2 teams in the league. But nowadays, with 30 teams and all the television coverage it is impossible to go back to that system. The divisions were put in place so that there were more pennant races and also to squeeze more money out of an extra playoff round. The wildcard was put in place for the same reason. Seeing a season with little suspense, has suddenly made MLB want to add yet another wildcard team. I think MLB should not rush to make a change just to address what happens this season at least.

IMO, having an incentive to winning the division will be a good thing. But I am not sure that a 162 game season should be decided on a 1 game playoff (unless 2 teams do end with identical records).

#8 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:47 AM

And, I don't remember the "Dante Bichette" Sox bringing me a lot of enjoyment, even though they were in contention.


Perhaps because they weren't really in contention. The '00 and '01 Sox won 85 and 82 games, they were lousy clubs. While the '00 club finished 2 1/2 out, it was largely a mirage because of how badly the Yankees played down the stretch. The '01 team was done in August.

#9 smastroyin


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:50 AM

And, I don't remember the "Dante Bichette" Sox bringing me a lot of enjoyment, even though they were in contention.


What about 2003 and 2004?, 1998, 1999?

Is your point that contention doesn't necessarily equal enjoyment? If that's the case then what makes the WC system different than any other time?

#10 Dehere

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:52 AM

The best of both worlds possibility is having two wild card teams in each league play each other in a one game do or die wild card round to advance to the divisional series. If that was in place this year, you can be damned sure that the Red Sox and Yankees would both do whatever they could to win the division rather than take a 50/50 shot at the WC, while Anaheim and Tampa Bay would currently be locked in a struggle to claim the second wild card spot.

One pitfall that was mentioned by a commenter on Posnanski's blog: eventually you're going to have a situation where the #2 wildcard is able to line up their rotation so that their ace is ready to pitch the one-game play-in while the #1 wildcard is unable to do the same because they're competing for a division title. Imagine a scenario in which the Angels tank their last series because they're locked into the #2 WC and they have Jared Weaver ready to go in the play-in game, while the Sox go all out for the AL East title, lose it, and end up with Lackey pitching the play-in. Sooner or later something like that is bound to happen.

We are being denied a classic pennant race, no doubt about it. Is it worth it for the 33% or so chance that we will get the awesomeness of a BOS-NYY ALCS? It might be.

#11 Red(s)HawksFan

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:05 AM

Since the NFL expanded to 4 division and 2 wildcards, the system has produced an incentive to not only winning the division but having the firs round bye. This, in turn, has made many teams not take the foot off the pedal in order to get that week off and play the first divisional game at home.

Is this really that true, though? Yes, first round byes are important, but I don't know that it has done much to ensure that teams don't take their foot off the pedal. Whether they were locked into the #1 seed or settling for the 4th seed, the Patriots have rarely go balls to the wall in weeks 16 and 17 recently. In fact, didn't the NFL a couple years make a point of making the last two weeks of the season be exclusively intra-divisional games? And wasn't that in reaction to Week 17 generally being devoid of drama due to teams having already clinched their spots and thus treating the final regular season game as a glorified pre-season game? Other than maybe determining 3rd seed or 4th seed, or deciding who the 2nd wildcard team in one conference, the playoff brackets are more often than not set after week 15 or 16.

Seems to me the NFL hasn't perfected their system any more than MLB has. They're tinkering or threatening to tinker every year as well. The 18-game schedule and adding a third wildcard team to each league are just a couple of the ideas that I've seen floated in the last couple years, all in reaction to the lack of "pennant race drama" at the end of the year.

#12 jon abbey


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:08 AM

I hate the division system in baseball and football, and I really hate the idea of a one game playoff between two wild card teams. Just look at this year to see how bad an idea the latter is: right now NY would play TB (8 games ahead) and ATL would play SF or STL (10 games ahead). It would make the regular season meaningless in a whole different way.

Just dump the divisions, go to a balanced schedule (at least within the league), and let the top four teams from each league make the playoffs. There would be a great race going on right now in the AL for the final two spots if this were the system in place.

#13 HillysLastWalk

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:12 AM

The best of both worlds possibility is having two wild card teams in each league play each other in a one game do or die wild card round to advance to the divisional series.


Not to pick on you, but I've heard this idea thrown around and I can't stand it. Well, maybe if it's combined with some other ideas that I haven't heard it would be OK. Meaning, if that was the only change to the system, I'd despise it.

I guess I have a hard time with the thought that the 'wild card' team is somehow inferior to a 'division winner'. The wild-card could have (and has had) the 2nd best record. But, because of the division "luck-of-the-draw" they should somehow be penalized?

Personally, I just want things to be fair. I haven't thought through this completely, but off the top of my head: No more divisions. No more unbalanced schedules. No more inter-league. Top 4 teams in, or Top 3 teams in and 4th and 5th can do the one-game playoff (allowing the #1 team to play the winner of this game). Seems reasonable, but I can be convinced otherwise.

Edited by HillysLastWalk, 30 August 2011 - 10:13 AM.


#14 Kremlin Watcher

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:26 AM

It doesn't particularly bother me that there is no great thrill this year at the end of the regular season. There can't be a "pennant race" every year during the regular season - sports doesn't work that way. Some years September is important, other years it's not.

But the institution of playoffs has pretty much guaranteed more meaningful games and thus more excitement in October. To me, MLB has simply moved the "pennant race" into October and ensured that there will be a larger quantity of meaningful games.

#15 PrometheusWakefield


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:33 AM

Not to pick on you, but I've heard this idea thrown around and I can't stand it. Well, maybe if it's combined with some other ideas that I haven't heard it would be OK. Meaning, if that was the only change to the system, I'd despise it.

Despite calling it the best of both worlds, I'm not totally sure how I feel about it myself. I was against the 90s change to a three division, WC format for the precise reason that it diminished the importance of divisional races, and my immediate reaction when I heard this proposed was disgust at the idea of another wildcard team. But the idea has grown on me, precisely because in doubling the number of WC teams, it halves the value of the WC and thus increases the importance of winning the division. The hope is that it creates more exciting games in September and October. I would think that the upcoming series in New York would be a much bigger deal under this format.

For bettter or for worse, it seems likely to happen, according to the Chicago Tribune anyway:

Barring an unexpected reversal, MLB is going to adopt the one-game, instant-elimination scenario television favors when it adds two more wild-card teams next season.

Nothing is set, and Commissioner Bud Selig declined to address the situation Friday. But it has become clear to those who speak to him regularly that he's buying into the idea that baseball needs to do more to reward teams that win their divisions.

He didn't need to be told the ratings potential for a win-or-go-home game involving the Yankees or Red Sox is huge.

The tipping point for Selig in these discussions could be a third factor that adding a one-game playoff instead of a best-of-three series, would eliminate unwanted time off for the other playoff teams, theoretically teams superior to those involved in the wild-card playoff. The one-game playoff is in keeping with a push by Selig and the players' union to tighten the postseason format.





#16 tims4wins


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:40 AM

I guess I have a hard time with the thought that the 'wild card' team is somehow inferior to a 'division winner'. The wild-card could have (and has had) the 2nd best record. But, because of the division "luck-of-the-draw" they should somehow be penalized?

This. The MFY are on pace for 98 wins this year. The Rangers and Tigers are on pace for 91 and 88 wins, respectively. In the 2 WC format, Tampa would make the playoffs with 89 wins.

It would be incredibly unfair that a 91 and 88 win team got to rest up and align their rotation while a 98 win team had to battle in a one game playoff, just due to their divisional alignment.

One way to tweak the proposal would be to still have the divisions and wild cards, but make seeding based entirely on record. So the MFY would be the 2 seed, and Tampa would host Detroit in the 1 game playoff.

Edit: of course no way Selig approves this, because under the current proposal, either the Sox or the MFY will be playing in the one game playoff like 8 out of every 10 years, which is awesome for TV. Then again, I would think that guaranteeing the Sox and the MFY at least 3 games (i.e. playing in the ALDS) would be better than the one game playoff... but I might be wrong there. I would think that all baseball fans would watch the one game playoff no matter who is playing - the presence of the Sox or MFY wouldn't change that too much, whereas people are more likely to watch the Sox or MFY in longer series.

Edited by tims4wins, 30 August 2011 - 10:42 AM.


#17 MannysDestination


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:55 AM

I like the current system. I'll take more exciting, compelling and interesting baseball in October over more excitement in September.

#18 JMDurron

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:21 AM

I enjoy the Red Sox winning. The current system, where a single Wild Card team plays the best division winner not in their own division in a best-of-5 series, gives the Red Sox the best chance of winning that is possible while playing in the same division as the Yankees. Anything that halves the benefit of the Wild Card is bad for the Red Sox, and therefore I am against it. There are other, objective, rational arguments for the 5th playoff team/one game playoff system being a bad idea as well, but I'd be dishonest if I pretended that I cared beyond the damage it would do to my team's chances. I really don't care how they chose playoff teams back when our fathers or grandfathers were our age, the leagues have changed significantly since then to the point that the comparison is pointless, and the current races and postseason games combined are compelling enough for me as they are.

#19 MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:25 AM

Just dump the divisions, go to a balanced schedule (at least within the league), and let the top four teams from each league make the playoffs. There would be a great race going on right now in the AL for the final two spots if this were the system in place.


This is where I'm at. The unbalanced schedule does, in my mind, just the opposite of the intended purpose of creating rivalries. They play so goddamned often that the games aren't special. And what would be wrong with a rivalry developing between the Sox and Angels (which sort of already exists)? Right now, they hardly play, so it doesn't have a chance to really bloom.

Really, the four best teams should play for the pennant. Right now, even the Blue Jays are getting hosed. I think they're better than the Tigers.

#20 PrometheusWakefield


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:37 AM

FWIW I don't think fairness is the goal. It was incredibly unfair when the 11-5 Patriots missed the playoffs, but I also think it was kind of awesome. I'll take maximizing excitement and strategery over fairness any day. Fairness only matters to the extent that it impacts excitement.

#21 trekfan55


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:46 AM

Is this really that true, though? Yes, first round byes are important, but I don't know that it has done much to ensure that teams don't take their foot off the pedal. Whether they were locked into the #1 seed or settling for the 4th seed, the Patriots have rarely go balls to the wall in weeks 16 and 17 recently. In fact, didn't the NFL a couple years make a point of making the last two weeks of the season be exclusively intra-divisional games? And wasn't that in reaction to Week 17 generally being devoid of drama due to teams having already clinched their spots and thus treating the final regular season game as a glorified pre-season game? Other than maybe determining 3rd seed or 4th seed, or deciding who the 2nd wildcard team in one conference, the playoff brackets are more often than not set after week 15 or 16.

Seems to me the NFL hasn't perfected their system any more than MLB has. They're tinkering or threatening to tinker every year as well. The 18-game schedule and adding a third wildcard team to each league are just a couple of the ideas that I've seen floated in the last couple years, all in reaction to the lack of "pennant race drama" at the end of the year.


My point goes to the fact that teams want to win their division and get that first round bye whenever possible. There have been occasions when teams have clinched HFA throughout by week 15 and in those cases they'll only play their starters for the 1st quarter (we have seen the Colts do this often) but the general idea of the NFL playoff system is to have an incentive to winning the division and to be among the top 2 division winners.

But back to baseball, I hope that Selig and Co. understand that right now this system punishes a very good team and rewards a worse one. The Yankees or Red Sox, whoever ends up losing the divsion get to play a team that will be maybe 8 games behind them in a win or go home playoff.

#22 Laser Show

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:47 AM

Posnanski had some thoughts on this a couple of weeks ago.


No, my only problem comes when I actually look at the standings.

This year, for instance, the Yankees-Red Sox loser would probably play Tampa Bay or the Angels in a one-game playoff. In the National League, the Braves would probably play the Giants-Diamondbacks loser, or perhaps St. Louis.

Well, does that seem fair? Sure, the wild-card teams have no right to complain. But the Red Sox, who are currently in second place, are CLEARLY better than the Rays or Angels especially the Rays, who are obviously in the same division. The Braves, at the moment, anyway, are a few games better than the Giants, Diamondbacks or Cardinals. I mean, we are talking about a noticeable gap between those teams.

In 2010, the Yankees (or Rays, who might have lost the division had it mattered) would have had to play Boston in a one-game playoff even though they had beaten the Red Sox pretty convincingly over 162 games..

The 2008 season is the only one over the last 16 that the Yankees did not make the playoffs. But in the new wild-card scenario they WOULD have made the playoffs, and the Red Sox who were six games up at season's end would have had to play them in a one-game playoff. Could you imagine if THAT Yankees team the one hopeful moment for Yankees haters everywhere had knocked out the Red Sox, beaten the miracle Rays and then gone on and won the World Series?

In 2007, the Tigers and Mariners tied for the wild card, which seems to suggest that they would have had to play in a one-game playoff, and the winner of THAT would have played the Yankees in a one-game playoff, even though the Yankees were six games better. That same year, the Mets collapse might not have meant anything, since the Mets would have still made it as the second wild card, and they might have knocked the Rockies out of the playoffs before they even began their run to the World Series. This is something else: We talk about how the wild card would bring back tension to the pennant races. But, realistically, it would take some tension out of the pennant races, too.

And so on. Some years, the matchups come out great. And I suspect that we will all start to feel the rhythms of this new wild-card thing. But as of now, there's something odd and unsettling about it. Sure we want the Yankees-Red Sox race to matter again. But unless you hate the Red Sox or Yankees as many of you no doubt do do you really think it would be fair to have them play the clearly beaten Tampa Bay Rays for the 20th time for the right to go the playoffs? That feels like some second-chance on a game show.

See, while the one-game playoff would indeed be punitive for the BEST team to not win a division, it's a golden ticket for the SECOND BEST team to not win a division. And, if you look at the standings, there's often a pretty wide gap between those two teams. In 2001, the 102-win Oakland A's would have played the 85-win Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff, which would not have made for a pleasant scene for Brad Pitt.


Originally, I had been all for the expansion. A yearly one-game playoff would be amazing both in terms of fan excitement and TV ratings/$.

But I've decided I'm against it. I know there needs to be some degree of parity, but this system would make the postseason even more of a crapshoot then it already is. Inferior teams getting into the postseason would just result in more complaining: either about the lack of excitement after another sweep or about how a clearly superior team got screwed over in a short series.

I like the idea mentioned in the last couple of posts. Scrap the divisions, balance the schedule, and take the top 4 teams in each league. Make each team really earn their playoff berth. (Interestingly, the only thing over the past 3 seasons, including this one, that would change is the 2009 Rangers getting in over the Twins. Granted, that's with no balanced schedule).

#23 Hendu for Kutch

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 11:54 AM

Just look at what a shitshow it would be this year. The two best teams, the two teams that have earned the right to coast into the playoffs more than any other, would be fighting tooth and nail right now. Meanwhile, Detroit would currently be in 4th place in the AL East, despite getting to play the bulk of its games against their pitiful division. More likely they'd be in 5th place if they actually played in the AL East.

Yet they'd be coasting into the playoffs, able to rest guys and line up their rotation. I hate the idea that the collection of teams they've been grouped into potentially has MORE impact than the team's actual performance.

I get why we need divisions, I just think winning one should be nothing more than a ticket to the playoffs. No preferential treatment because you were slightly better than the group of teams you were lucky enough to be bunched with. Seed by record only, giving division winners a tiebreaker if it comes to that.

#24 jon abbey


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:09 PM

I get why we need divisions


Maybe you can explain it to me then. Travel time? I don't think it's really that much of a difference with team jets. Rivalries? NY has as much of a rivalry right now with Texas as they do with TB, and certainly more than with Toronto or Baltimore.

#25 Savin Hillbilly


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:14 PM

Just dump the divisions, go to a balanced schedule (at least within the league), and let the top four teams from each league make the playoffs. There would be a great race going on right now in the AL for the final two spots if this were the system in place.

This makes way too much sense to ever happen.

#26 Hendu for Kutch

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:17 PM

Maybe you can explain it to me then. Travel time? I don't think it's really that much of a difference with team jets. Rivalries? NY has as much of a rivalry right now with Texas as they do with TB, and certainly more than with Toronto or Baltimore.


I guess I'll clarify that. We don't NEED divisions and I'd certainly be fine without them. They're simply in place to create pennant races, and I get the desire to do that. I just don't think they should get any reward above and beyond making the playoffs while superior teams are being punished.

Although, I do admit that I like that west coast trips are limited to a couple per year. It would suck pretty hard having to stay up past midnight for 20% of the games in a season.

#27 jon abbey


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:19 PM

This makes way too much sense to ever happen.


The other problem that this would somewhat inadvertently help if implemented is payroll inequity. If NY and Boston weren't in the same division, they'd both almost certainly spend less on payroll, probably decidedly less in Boston's case.

#28 jon abbey


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 12:22 PM

They're simply in place to create pennant races, and I get the desire to do that.


But as we've seen this year and last, they can also easily do the opposite.

#29 Rasputin


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 03:12 PM

But as we've seen this year and last, they can also easily do the opposite.


No matter what you aim for, it isn't always going to work out.

If things were different, things would be different.

All you can do is try to arrange it so that every playoff position means something. The NFL does this really well but they have help in that it's a single game and home field is worth so much more.

The #1 spot gets home field and a bye, the #2 spot gets a bye, the #3 gets home field and worst opponent, the #4 gets home field and it falls apart a bit with the last two but really they're usually just happy to be there.

Currently in baseball being #1 in your league gets you the worst opponent unless they were in the same division and the choice of the division series schedule if it's your league's year to have different schedules.

The difference between #2 and #3 is home field advantage which amounts to a difference in one game out of five in the sport where home field means the least.

That's one of the reasons why I like the additional wild card. The difference between 1 and 2 is pretty big. The difference between 2 and 3 isn't that big. The difference between 3 and 4 is huge and the difference between 4 and five isn't that big. It's not perfect but it has a huge incentive to win the division.

And yes, at some point there will be two teams fighting to win the division while the second wild card has no shot and the second wild card will be able to set up their rotation for the first round and the first wild card will have to start with their #2 or #3 guy and that's gonna suck.

No matter what you do, sometimes it sucks.

#30 Hendu for Kutch

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:02 PM

The difference between 3 and 4 is huge


That's the problem for me, right there. In most seasons, 4 is going to be better than 3. In fact, do you know the last time the #3 division winner had a better record than the wild card winner in the AL? 1999.

For 12 consecutive years in the AL (and 7 in the NL), the wild card winner has been as good or better than the 3rd division winner (with 2 AL ties and 1 NL tie).

I see no reason a drastic advantage should be given to what is almost always going to be an inferior team. It's as simple as that in my mind.

#31 twothousandone

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 04:47 PM

Maybe you can explain it to me then.


It's about selling T-Shirts and hats. 2010 AL/NL Eastern/Western/Central Division champ and 2010 AL/NL Wild Card champ.

They wouldn't be able to sell quite as many "2010 AL third-place regular-season finisher" T-Shirts.

#32 trekfan55


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 05:20 PM

That's the problem for me, right there. In most seasons, 4 is going to be better than 3. In fact, do you know the last time the #3 division winner had a better record than the wild card winner in the AL? 1999.

For 12 consecutive years in the AL (and 7 in the NL), the wild card winner has been as good or better than the 3rd division winner (with 2 AL ties and 1 NL tie).

I see no reason a drastic advantage should be given to what is almost always going to be an inferior team. It's as simple as that in my mind.


It's not only that, but the whole "you cannot face the team in your own division" thing also annoys me. Once the teams are set, seat them by record and play 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3. If 1 vs 4 is Red Sox-Yankees, so be it. At least you set things up so that the 2 best teams in the league get to meet (provided they win their series of course) in the Championship Series. If somehow, the team with the 4th best record beats the one with the best record in a short series then "thems the breaks".

BTW we had all this controversy in the NFL last year when Seattle won the NFC West and was seeded #4 even though they had a worse record that both wildcard teams and thus got to play at home (something that in the NFL means much more and it is ONE game).

#33 Gene Conleys Plane Ticket

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Posted 30 August 2011 - 05:49 PM

I hate the division system in baseball and football, and I really hate the idea of a one game playoff between two wild card teams. Just look at this year to see how bad an idea the latter is: right now NY would play TB (8 games ahead) and ATL would play SF or STL (10 games ahead). It would make the regular season meaningless in a whole different way.

Just dump the divisions, go to a balanced schedule (at least within the league), and let the top four teams from each league make the playoffs. There would be a great race going on right now in the AL for the final two spots if this were the system in place.


Assuming we accept that the 1903-1968 system of one pennant winner per league/no playoffs is no longer viable, I think that the above is the best solution. Actually, the best solution might be to have the top three teams make it, giving the first-place finisher a first-round bye.

I think it is very sad that the regular season has become a long, drawn-out qualifying round for a month-long championship tournament that usually tells us little or nothing about who the true "champion" of Major League Baseball deserves to be.

In addition to being sad, the current system also produces distorted views of a player's worth. There are still plenty of people who believe that, for example, Barry Bonds was an overrated player because he "didn't produce in the postseason," taking the evidence of 48 games played over the evidence provide by the nearly 3,000 other games he played in his career. Because those 48 were the games that "mattered."

Part of me prefers the European soccer system, where there is no "postseason" and the team that finishes first, wins. End of story. The rest of the excitement comes from qualifying for and competing in the international tournaments that run concurrently with the regular season. I know there's less than zero chance of that system being implemented here, but it's just a damn shame that teams plays 162 games that in most people's minds, don't even count anymore.

#34 Infield Infidel


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Posted 30 August 2011 - 09:14 PM

It's not only that, but the whole "you cannot face the team in your own division" thing also annoys me. Once the teams are set, seat them by record and play 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3. If 1 vs 4 is Red Sox-Yankees, so be it. At least you set things up so that the 2 best teams in the league get to meet (provided they win their series of course) in the Championship Series. If somehow, the team with the 4th best record beats the one with the best record in a short series then "thems the breaks".

I'd be perfectly happy if, when they add a fifth team, they seed them 1-5, and teams 4 and 5 play a three-game series

#35 BucketOBalls


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Posted 31 August 2011 - 10:36 AM

I'd be perfectly happy if, when they add a fifth team, they seed them 1-5, and teams 4 and 5 play a three-game series


This would be OK with me. If there are 3 teams better than you, I don't think you can really complain. But, as mentioned above, the current wild card winner is often better than one of the division winners and better than both of them a fair bit of the time.

As it is, we can get races for the wild card, and, really, we get more races for the wild card than pennant races really. There have been, what, 2 1-game playoffs in the past 4 years? Just due to the number of teams, you'll get more races for the wild card than pennants.


For me, part of the point of the playoffs is seeing the best teams going at it. If BOS and NYY were in a pennant race, then we make September more exciting, but also risking making the postseason less exciting(I'd rather have an ALCS between teams that are 1-2 games apart than 7-8 games apart), which seems like a bad trade off for me.

#36 singaporesoxfan

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 12:38 PM

It seems that many feel that if the answer to the initial question of "Are we being denied one of the great pennant races of all time?" is 'Yes', the automatic follow-up is 'Something must be done about it'. I'm not sure that's the case. I think you can answer that this year lacks pennant drama, and say "well, that's how it shook out for 2011, but on the whole I'm okay with the current format".

Tinkering with the whole system because this year lacked drama will likely produce future years with other weird outcomes, depending on where the separation between great and merely good teams lies. I'll bet that with a 1-game playoff, there will be a year with 3 clear division champs and 2 clear wild card teams with almost identical records. Under the current format, that would lead to the excitement of the two wild card teams trying out for the final slot. Under the 1-game playoff format, both the wild card teams would rest up their best pitchers and bullpen and save them for the playoff game. So I'm not even sure it maximises excitement and strategy - in a scenario like what I've outlined above, you get the exciting 1-game cage match at the end, but you've given up a lot of the September races. And then people will ask "are we being denied one of the great Wild Card races of all time?"

#37 Rasputin


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Posted 31 August 2011 - 03:19 PM

That's the problem for me, right there. In most seasons, 4 is going to be better than 3. In fact, do you know the last time the #3 division winner had a better record than the wild card winner in the AL? 1999.

For 12 consecutive years in the AL (and 7 in the NL), the wild card winner has been as good or better than the 3rd division winner (with 2 AL ties and 1 NL tie).

I see no reason a drastic advantage should be given to what is almost always going to be an inferior team. It's as simple as that in my mind.


On the fact of it, I'm totally fine with that.

On the other hand, it isn't necessarily clear who is the best team. Often it is but if, say the Rays were in the AL Central they'd have ripped through that division like you wouldn't believe and could easily end up with a better record than the Yankees will. They're not better than the Yankees.

The only way to do that would be to play completely balanced schedules which is just silly.

the other thing is that if you're not making the wild card #4 then it eliminates the benefit of finishing first as opposed to second.

#38 zenter


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Posted 31 August 2011 - 04:01 PM

On the fact of it, I'm totally fine with that.

On the other hand, it isn't necessarily clear who is the best team. Often it is but if, say the Rays were in the AL Central they'd have ripped through that division like you wouldn't believe and could easily end up with a better record than the Yankees will. They're not better than the Yankees.

The only way to do that would be to play completely balanced schedules which is just silly.

the other thing is that if you're not making the wild card #4 then it eliminates the benefit of finishing first as opposed to second.

Why is a balanced schedule silly? You repeatedly argue this, Ras, but it simply doesn't hold water. See ca 1994 and earlier for evidence of balanced schedules working just fine.

In fact, the point of this thread is that there is no particular value to fight for a top seed in baseball playoffs, in part because of the typically-small home field advantage (as compared to, say, NBA) and in part because of the Wild Card. Eliminating divisions, balancing schedules, and having a simple cut-off (4 or 5 teams per league) A) allows the 1st seed to have a legitimate claim to it, and B) enables teams in potentially-tough divisions to more easily fight for playoff spots. The secondary benefit is that owners in non-East divisions are suddenly forced to invest in either better players or better development. This is a rising tide that can float all boats.

#39 Rasputin


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Posted 31 August 2011 - 10:31 PM

Why is a balanced schedule silly?


Because it means more travel and more games against teams we don't give a shit about.

Because it means either the complete elimination of interleague play or the balancing of that schedule neither of which are even remotely likely.

Lets see what a balanced schedule would look like shall we?

We move an NL team over to the AL and go with two fifteen team leagues.

In order to balance the interleague schedule you have a home and home series with each team in the other league. Congratulations, you have just played seventy-five interleague games leaving you just 87 for AL opponents. That works out to 6.2 per opponent. Okay you shorten the season and have two series against each of the teams in your own league. Congratulations you're playing more games outside your league than in it.

Want to play just one series against each NL team? That's not balanced. Playing the Padres in San Diego is not playing the Padres in Boston or New York.

Playing a team in April is not the same as playing them in August because they're not the same team.

And you know what? Pre 1994 the schedules weren't really balanced. You'd be playing some teams 12 times and other teams 13 times. That's not balanced. Oh, it's as balanced as you can get? Does that really makes you comfortable deciding that a one game difference in teams is actually meaningful? I've got news for ya, there's no way in hell you can play 162 games and make a one game difference meaningful.

The balance in this balanced schedule you talk about is an illusion. Josh Beckett has pitched two games against Anaheim and one against Texas. Is that fair? And three against Cleveland but only two against Detroit and seemingly none against the Chicago White Sox. The balance is an illusion used to justify feeling confident in making concrete determinations in an arena where we don't have and cannot get a concrete value.

You need to be able to deal with the uncertainty.

Make sure you let enough teams in that there's a good probability that the best will advance and make the different spots worth playing for so the end of the regular season isn't a terrible letdown and there ya go.

Eliminating divisions, balancing schedules, and having a simple cut-off (4 or 5 teams per league) A) allows the 1st seed to have a legitimate claim to it, and B) enables teams in potentially-tough divisions to more easily fight for playoff spots. The secondary benefit is that owners in non-East divisions are suddenly forced to invest in either better players or better development. This is a rising tide that can float all boats.


Two things. One, you know that it isn't going to happen. Zero chance. I'd be astonished if it were even seriously discussed.

Second, sure in a hypothetical world it is a rising tide that can float all boats. It's also a rising tide that can swamp half of them. If there were no divisions in the AL then the AL would have seen 12 teams competing for one spot every year since 2008 while the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays coasted. Only you wouldn't have twelve teams competing you'd have maybe four or five teams competing and the rest of them "rebuilding" often for the umpeenth consecutive season.

Eliminating divisions would exacerbate the revenue disparity for all the AL teams not located in Tampa, Baltimore, and Toronto.

This notion that if we have five teams in the postseason they have to be the five best teams even though we can't really do anything better than get an approximate grasp on which teams are the best teams is just plain silly. The NFL which, I think you'd agree, is surviving pretty well doesn't even pretend to care. The teams don't play remotely the same schedule and nobody really gives a shit because it's just fucking fun. It's fun when your team has sucked for a long time and you finally get to the playoffs and get completely obliterated by a team that goes on to get completely obliterated the next week.

The divisions were created for good reasons and those reasons haven't gone away.

#40 zenter


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Posted 01 September 2011 - 11:13 AM

Okay... Taking this bit by bit...

Because it means more travel and more games against teams we don't give a shit about.

Travel is non-issue. It happened before just fine. These are big boys, they can deal with it. Making a west-coast or east-coast roadtrip swing works just fine. "Teams we don't..." is divisional thinking. The only reason we don't care about them is because of divisions. Without divisions, all teams matter.

Because it means either the complete elimination of interleague play or the balancing of that schedule neither of which are even remotely likely.

In my ideal world, yes it means elimination of interleague play. Even in baseball, many are perfectly fine with the elimination of interleague. I don't think that's as big a hurdle over the next 5-10 years as you think it is. Even still, assuming IL continues, balanced in-league schedule is really a far more critical concern for me (and others), as IL can never be balanced anyway.

Lets see what a balanced schedule would look like shall we?

We move an NL team over to the AL and go with two fifteen team leagues.

In order to balance the interleague schedule you have a home and home series with each team in the other league. Congratulations, you have just played seventy-five interleague games leaving you just 87 for AL opponents. That works out to 6.2 per opponent. Okay you shorten the season and have two series against each of the teams in your own league. Congratulations you're playing more games outside your league than in it.

Why move a team? It's not strictly necessary. Also, no need to balance IL schedule for reasons stated above. Let's say IL was 12 games a season per team. That means you balance the remaining 150. In the NL, that results in a perfect 10 games against every team. In the AL, you play 11 or 12 against all the other teams. It's not strictly balanced, but it's far better than the 18/9 idiocy we have today.

Want to play just one series against each NL team? That's not balanced. Playing the Padres in San Diego is not playing the Padres in Boston or New York.

Playing a team in April is not the same as playing them in August because they're not the same team.

And you know what? Pre 1994 the schedules weren't really balanced. You'd be playing some teams 12 times and other teams 13 times. That's not balanced. Oh, it's as balanced as you can get? Does that really makes you comfortable deciding that a one game difference in teams is actually meaningful? I've got news for ya, there's no way in hell you can play 162 games and make a one game difference meaningful.

Again, IL is a stupid idea, let it be unbalanced. That would be a much smaller percentage of stupid scheduling than we have now. It's progress.

If time/fatigue/weather is a factor you think schedules should account for, you're no longer operating in the realm of reality. While we're in crazyland, let's ban injuries and inclement weather. A balanced schedule is a factor you can control in assessing a team's "legitimacy" to be in the playoffs. Weather, time, fatigue, and even park factors are not. I'd think you're able to understand that huge difference. So let's put our strawmen away.

I'm perfectly comfortable with "as balanced as we can get". I think most of us are.

The balance in this balanced schedule you talk about is an illusion. Josh Beckett has pitched two games against Anaheim and one against Texas. Is that fair? And three against Cleveland but only two against Detroit and seemingly none against the Chicago White Sox. The balance is an illusion used to justify feeling confident in making concrete determinations in an arena where we don't have and cannot get a concrete value.

You need to be able to deal with the uncertainty.

Make sure you let enough teams in that there's a good probability that the best will advance and make the different spots worth playing for so the end of the regular season isn't a terrible letdown and there ya go.

Teams against teams, Ras. I think you're significantly over-drawing the idea of "balanced schedule" to an absurd conclusion, one that none of us makes. How about you talk about the real ideas that people have rather than attacking these things that A) none of us are asserting and B) nobody has control over.

Regarding uncertainty and probability, a top-4 or top-5 teams in a balanced-schedule league handles this much better than our convoluted divisional system.

Two things. One, you know that it isn't going to happen. Zero chance. I'd be astonished if it were even seriously discussed.

Second, sure in a hypothetical world it is a rising tide that can float all boats. It's also a rising tide that can swamp half of them. If there were no divisions in the AL then the AL would have seen 12 teams competing for one spot every year since 2008 while the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays coasted. Only you wouldn't have twelve teams competing you'd have maybe four or five teams competing and the rest of them "rebuilding" often for the umpeenth consecutive season.

Regarding #1, I'm sure people would have said that about interleague play or whether baseball would use instant replay, or hockey players would wear helmets, or zone defense would ever come back to the NBA, or.... The point is this: sports evolve.

Regarding #2, I think you focus too much on the short term (with the strong AL East) to recognize that no team stays competitive in perpetuity. Not even the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies. In the 80s into the early 90s, strength was in the AL West. Let's look mathematically. If there are 5 teams that could make the playoffs based solely on record, the odds of making the playoffs are improved for all teams. That means, instead of having an August where we're already lining up playoff spots. Looking at the AL right now, I see 9 teams legitimately in contention for 5 spots. In the NL, I see 9 teams in legitimate contention for 5 playoff spots. That's makes baseball a lot more exciting, and actually makes me interested in what other teams are doing.

Eliminating divisions would exacerbate the revenue disparity for all the AL teams not located in Tampa, Baltimore, and Toronto.

You quote as much data as I do regarding "rising tide", so I'll leave this comment alone.

This notion that if we have five teams in the postseason they have to be the five best teams even though we can't really do anything better than get an approximate grasp on which teams are the best teams is just plain silly. The NFL which, I think you'd agree, is surviving pretty well doesn't even pretend to care. The teams don't play remotely the same schedule and nobody really gives a shit because it's just fucking fun. It's fun when your team has sucked for a long time and you finally get to the playoffs and get completely obliterated by a team that goes on to get completely obliterated the next week.

Are you seriously comparing the NFL to the MLB? First, you have 32 teams (16 in-conference) and 16 games. It's virtually impossible to do a balanced schedule (I count exactly one way to do it). Second, football is significantly less statistically noisy than baseball - the quality of teams quickly emerge within a few games. As for baseball, see your above "one game in 162" comment. How did that 0-6 (or 5-11) start matter for the Sox? It takes 120-plus games in aggregate to get a read on which ones are playoff-contending teams, and another 30 or so to get an idea of which ones are deserving. Third, how many teams make the playoffs in football? 12/32 versus baseball's 8/30 (or proposed 10/30). You're talking about a higher chance of making the playoffs already, which mitigates imbalance.

The divisions were created for good reasons and those reasons haven't gone away.

I'd love to know more about these good reasons and how they have not gone away. I'm especially interested in references to "bus rides and cheap motels" and understanding the value of "regional rivalries".

Edited by zenter, 01 September 2011 - 11:15 AM.


#41 MentalDisabldLst


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Posted 01 September 2011 - 01:47 PM

Taking into account the various political realities that Selig faces with the owners, TV channels, merchandise, and other business factors, here's my proposal:

* Preserve current division format
* Division winners are guaranteed to make the playoffs, along with next two best-record teams
* Playoff Teams are seeded within their league by record, regardless of division winner status
* 4 and 5 play a (1 or 3)-game series, giving an advantage to being in the top 3, and a sizable advantage to being seeded #1.

This enhances the odds that the top team over 162 games wins the pennant and represents the league, but doesn't make it guaranteed. Position for seeding matters, meaning nobody just takes the last 2 weeks off unless they're blowing away the league. The symmetry of a 3-game series being followed by two 5-game series and then a 7-game series is kinda nice: a series' length is correlated with its importance. It gives Selig his 5th playoff team and do-or-die game or mini-series, and more playoff baseball to televise. It preserves the status of division winners (aka the tshirts and hats), but lessens the meaningfulness/unfairness with respect to playoff status.

Plus, Tampa is only 2 GB of Texas for #3 record in the league. How hilarious would it be if the other two division winners had to play each other in a do-or-die game for the right to challenge the remaining 3 AL East teams?

#42 singaporesoxfan

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 01:52 PM

This notion that if we have five teams in the postseason they have to be the five best teams even though we can't really do anything better than get an approximate grasp on which teams are the best teams is just plain silly. The NFL which, I think you'd agree, is surviving pretty well doesn't even pretend to care. The teams don't play remotely the same schedule and nobody really gives a shit because it's just fucking fun. It's fun when your team has sucked for a long time and you finally get to the playoffs and get completely obliterated by a team that goes on to get completely obliterated the next week.

The divisions were created for good reasons and those reasons haven't gone away.


This is somewhat tangential, but I think the current divisional system does a good job of creating parity in baseball, essentially by putting smaller market teams in the two Central divisions. So I agree that it's fun when your team has sucked for a long time and you finally get to the playoffs. Even without looking it up, I would bet that the percentage of MLB teams that made it to the postseason the last 10 years is similar to the NFL's. Heck, the last 10 years have seen 14 different World Series teams.

Which is why I don't know why there's a need to tinker with the number of playoff teams. There's a fine balance between giving everyone a decent shot and letting everyone in, and I like where MLB is in the balance. Certainly I don't think that 1 season's worth of data (this season) is enough to justify expanding to a 5-team playoff, which is itself a different kind of unfairness.

#43 Plympton91


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Posted 01 September 2011 - 10:00 PM

Adding a second wild-card team in the current format and having a one-game playoff between the wild-card teams would be, and I am not engaging in hyperbole, one of the single worst decisions by a commissioner in the history of professional team sports, excepting Selig's decision to cancel the season in 1994 and then Selig's decision to force MLB teams to put their minor leaguers in the position of being strikebreakers in the spring of 1995, and Selig's decision to have the All-Star Game determine home field advantage in the World Series.

As already documented above, the 5th place team almost never "deserves" to make the playoffs, and almost always is significantly behind the wild-card winner. Now past performance is no guarantee of future results, but history does mean something. Moreover, as someone also pointed out, you cannot allow a situation where the 5th place team is coasting to the play-in game by resting its #1 starter, while the wild card team is going balls-to-the-wall to try to win their division and avoid the play-in game.

People are forgetting the main purpose of the wild card. It is to ensure that the second best team does not miss the playoffs due to an accident of geography. There is no other competitive rationale for a wild card; of course, money makes a rationale for just ending the season after 154 games and having a 16 team playoff brackett. Hell, maybe make it 24 teams with 4 play-in games. Frankly, I'd see little difference between a 16 team playoff structure and a 10 team structure. Same number of rounds, basically.

Two ideas could mitigate the awfulness of this scheme:

MDLs plan where you go to a balanced schedule and have the playoff be between the 4th and 5th place teams without regard to who won divisions.

Go to two divisions, have two division winners and one guaranteed wild card, and the 4th and 5th place teams play off.

Another idea could somewhat mitigate it:

Play it as a 3 game series in 2 days, all at the home park of the wild card winner, and make the first day a double-header--forcing a team to at least use a portion of it's bullpen depth to win.

#44 lexrageorge

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 10:39 PM

I really don't see what "problem" all these ideas are attempting to solve.

There is no rule that says the so-called "best" team in the regular season must be in the World Series. Yes, baseball did this prior to 1968, but there were way fewer teams. No other sports league does it this way either.

It's also hard to come up with an argument that says a "deserving" team is excluded from the playoffs in this system. Sorry, but the 2010 Red Sox were hardly "deserving" given their poor record against winning teams.

There is no way to have a system that "guarantees' an exciting pennant race. No matter how many teams qualify for the playoffs, there will always be some years where there is a big gap between the lowest qualifying team and highest non-qualifying team.

Playoffs by definition represent a small sample size of games. So there's no way to make the playoffs determine the so-called "best" team. Neither is that the goal of a playoff system.

The current system works in that it gives fans in different parts of the country and in different cities a chance to follow their home town team come playoff time. While we here in Boston may not care that there are fans from 7 other cities also following their teams in October, I can tell you that the MLB cares very much about this and likes it a lot.

#45 Hobson's Choice

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:07 PM

Look, this is 99% tongue-in-cheek, but I've been toying with this since I started reading this thread.

Since inter-league play is probably not going away, which blurs a lot of things re the "purity" of records, why not allow for a possible AL-AL or NL-NL world series? Play AL #1 vs. NL #4, etc.

If the season ends today: DS1: Yankees/Braves, Rangers/Diamondbacks: DS2: Tigers/Brewers, Red Sox/Phillies. Home team's rules. Expand the All-Star rule for all post-season series.

Rays vs Braves, Cards/Giants vs Sox if it's extended to the play-in.

It gets rid of the rule which excludes the wild card from playing an inter-division team, something I've never fully understood. It lessens the chances of an outlier making to the Series, if one league is weaker than the other. And it's total heresy, I suppose. But it's entertaining, right?

Have at it.

#46 Papelbon's Poutine

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:28 PM

Look, this is 99% tongue-in-cheek, but I've been toying with this since I started reading this thread.

Since inter-league play is probably not going away, which blurs a lot of things re the "purity" of records, why not allow for a possible AL-AL or NL-NL world series? Play AL #1 vs. NL #4, etc.

If the season ends today: DS1: Yankees/Braves, Rangers/Diamondbacks: DS2: Tigers/Brewers, Red Sox/Phillies. Home team's rules. Expand the All-Star rule for all post-season series.

Rays vs Braves, Cards/Giants vs Sox if it's extended to the play-in.

It gets rid of the rule which excludes the wild card from playing an inter-division team, something I've never fully understood. It lessens the chances of an outlier making to the Series, if one league is weaker than the other. And it's total heresy, I suppose. But it's entertaining, right?

Have at it.


How the hell would the Sox end up playing the Phillies? Since they would be the NL #1 vs. the AL WC? If you're going to drop all league affiliations and seed everyone, do a top eight, regardless of league and go that way. PHI/DET, NYY/TEX, BOS/ARI, MIL/ATL. If you're going to make it a free for all, do it. Don't go half ass.

Edited by Papelbon's Poutine, 06 September 2011 - 10:31 PM.


#47 xpisblack

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 10:35 PM

This is somewhat tangential, but I think the current divisional system does a good job of creating parity in baseball, essentially by putting smaller market teams in the two Central divisions. So I agree that it's fun when your team has sucked for a long time and you finally get to the playoffs. Even without looking it up, I would bet that the percentage of MLB teams that made it to the postseason the last 10 years is similar to the NFL's. Heck, the last 10 years have seen 14 different World Series teams.

Which is why I don't know why there's a need to tinker with the number of playoff teams. There's a fine balance between giving everyone a decent shot and letting everyone in, and I like where MLB is in the balance. Certainly I don't think that 1 season's worth of data (this season) is enough to justify expanding to a 5-team playoff, which is itself a different kind of unfairness.

Thank you for this-- I thought I had finally gone that last bit of mad. All these cries for parity strike me as bizarre. The comparisons to the NFL have me equally perplexed-- Is the NFL really the exemplar of league parity? Particularly when, what, 21 NFL teams (out of 32) have made their playoffs in the past decade, and something like 22 MLB teams have done (24 if you include the LDSeries)? When 11 AL teams and 11 NL teams have made the Championship round in that decade, and 9 AFC vs 12 NFC teams have done in the NFL? In the past decade, I'm fairly certain that the number of bottom-5-payroll teams to have played in the World Series is almost the same as the number of top-5-payroll-per-league teams (though the high-payroll team usually wins those contests). Out of 20 WS teams, having 4 bottom-five-, 9 middle-, and 7 top-five-payroll teams seems at least within the limits of reasonable to me. These suggestions supposedly intended to improve parity, as though the team with the highest payroll won the Series each year, remind me of one of my favourite backhandedly complimentary rejections attached to a colleague's submitted journal article: paraphrased, "This paper filled a necessary hole in the literature."

So, then, with that said, here's my "fix": Why not add another division to each league, as well as adding two teams to the AL? Four divisions, four teams apiece; for the wild card, see below. That avoids the necessity of having an interleague game every night, and addresses some of the concerns about parity. North, East, South, and West: ALN= Jays, Tigers, Twins, Mariners; ALE= Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Rays; ALS= Angels, Rangers, Royals, expansion team in one of [San Antonio, Charlotte, Orlando, Norfolk, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, or another sufficiently large market possibly including Mexico City]; ALW= A's, Indians, White Sox, expansion team in [Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Jose, Columbus, Indianapolis, etc]. NLN= Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Brewers; NLE= Braves, Mets, Nationals, Phillies; NLW= Cardinals, Astros, Rockies, Giants; NLS= Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Marlins. Alternately, Canada (or Buffalo) could get an ALN team, perhaps in Edmonton or Calgary, and shift the Rays to the South. Or a new ALE team could go to Hartford, Providence, or Buffalo, instead, though each of those seems increasingly unlikely. Personally, I would support adding a Mexican team and a Canadian one, although I understand the objections to each. If Carlos Slim were prepared to fund a team and its park &c-- and we all know he's a baseball fan-- then I think Mexico City would be a vastly entertaining addition to the roster of MLB cities. Montreal, I thought, mainly gave up on baseball because the players' strike lubelessly turked the Expos' fans far more than most other teams', and maybe they could be won back. Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton are probably too small-- each already supports an NHL team, and none boasts a market greater than 700,000 people.

As for scheduling, each team would play each other team in its division 18 times (6 series of 3 games each, for 54 divisional games constituting exactly 1/3 of the season and ideally spread at the beginning, middle, and end of the season, although that's getting into impossible and quite mad territory) and each other team in the league 7 times (2 2-game series and a 3-game series or a 4-game and a 3-game, depending on scheduling difficulties, making a total of 84 non-divisional league games), with 24 interleague games (one home and one away 3-game series against each of the 4 teams in an opposite-league division). Every AL division plays the same NL division that year, on a rotating basis-- in year A, the regions match (ALN vs NLN, etc), then in year B they stagger a step (ALN vs NLE, ALE vs NLS...), etc.

Of course, this system puts too much emphasis on division games, but so it goes. It's relatively fair, at least in terms of league scheduling-- the only scheduling disparity that that springs to mind is the uneven number of extradivision games, so every season-series benefits one team with the home advantage of one game. And some of the divisional boundaries make no good sense-- in particular, Houston is misfiled: it's farther south than Los Angeles, but that was the only slot that made sense to me-- but the teams don't exactly fall into tidy clusters. There's also that, in order for a system like this one to work, the AL would need two more teams, and people are already complaining bitterly about the number of existing teams. But if the league were to impose a salary floor-- leave off a cap for now, and leave just the luxury tax and fund-redistribution, but force every team to spend a collectively-agreed-upon reasonable minimum amount on team payroll-- then perhaps competition wouldn't suffer too much.

For the playoffs, there could be no or one wild card. If zero, then we get back to traditional pennant races. If one, then I'd propose a best-of-three series between the WC team and the divisional winner with the worst overall record. Congratulations for winning your division, here's your wee banner; now go prove that you're better than the best non-divisional winner or go home.

It's as realistic and practical as any of these other proposals (read: not very at all), and actually does seek to level out some of the glaring disparities in the league. That said, I believe people are going to want to tweak any given system to correct for the perceived inequalities of the immediate past, and a mature league has to learn to take a deep breath and go about its business. Sadly, MLB under Commissioner Selig isn't exactly a mature league, so Thoth knows what shenanigans he'll promote come the winter meetings.

#48 snowmanny

  • 2282 posts

Posted 07 September 2011 - 11:58 AM



There is no rule that says the so-called "best" team in the regular season must be in the World Series. Yes, baseball did this prior to 1968, but there were way fewer teams. No other sports league does it this way either.



Baseball, of course, had a season (1981) in which the best regular season team did not make the playoffs.

#49 JakeRae


  • SoSH Member


  • 5277 posts

Posted 16 September 2011 - 09:46 PM

So, given the drama of this weekend, do people still think an extra wild card team is a good idea?

#50 Savin Hillbilly


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  • 11199 posts

Posted 17 September 2011 - 09:02 AM

So, given the drama of this weekend, do people still think an extra wild card team is a good idea?

I'm not sure I understand the question. Why does a dramatic September weekend show that an extra wild card team isn't a good idea? (I'm not saying it is or isn't, I just don't see the connection you're making.)