Major League Baseball is always the last professional sports organization to make a progressive move for the betterment of the game. When the Commissioners Office gives the green light to enact such a change they never do enough to ensure its success. Certain things come to mind in this regard, primarily testing for performance-enhancing drugs, instant replay and the inclusion of non-whites to major league rosters. News of a possible playoff realignment is not only exciting but has been in the making since we all realized that playing the World Series in November is a bad idea.
Bud Selig’s plan is to have two Wild Card teams battle it out for the right to face the team with best league record. The only way I can see this working is if the regular season schedule is shortened to accommodate extra round of postseason play. A league schedule of 154 games would have to be played. Three division winners would get first round byes as two wild card teams would battle it out in a five or seven game Wild Card series during the last week of September. The playoffs would then follow the current format.
Are players going to reconcile getting paid eight days less in order to have an extra week of rest? How will this expansion affect current television and advertising contracts that are structured on a 162 game season? Will owners really agree to omitting eight games for the greater chance for their club to make the playoffs?
If the season isn’t shortened to make way for an extra round of playoffs, we may face a situation where the World Series would be played into mid-November. Having an extra playoff round may be great for fans on the surface, the adjusted cost factor of playing less games will force teams to raise prices for admission and at the concession.
Selig favors expansion because he has been at the helm of all of the league’s expansionary measures for almost two decades. The shortening of the season would put more money in the owners pockets by charging more at the gate and paying their players for less games played. Advertising revenues will increase due to a higher demand with less games being played during the season. Despite the negative financial conodations, the competitiveness of division play would increase. Including a first round bye for division winners would increase the importance of winning the division. Secondly, division winners would get extended time off as the wild cards fight it out for a Division Series berth. The division would have to be realigned in order to give each club a fair shot at a possible division crown (this means you NL Central and AL West). Evenly-teamed divisions coupled with a heavy division opponent-laden schedule makes the games played even more meaningful in August and September.
Who wouldn’t want to see the Phillies have even more of an opportunity to beat down the Mets in the future?