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MLB's New Playoffs Are Too Much Of A Good Thing... Or Not Enough

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 2, 2012 8:40PM

2012_03_02_mlb_logo.gif We love baseball, and we love seeing our team make the post-season. While fans of both of our city's teams would be foolish to expect any postseason baseball, MLB is about to institute some changes that will boost all teams' odds of "making" the playoffs a little bit. But is that a good thing?

The league and players union have hammered out the final details to enact revised playoff format for 2012 instead of 2013, when the rest of the collective bargaining agreement kicks in. Under the new scenario, two wild cards will make the playoffs from each league instead of current one. Those two wild cards will then play a single game to determine who faces off against one of the divisional winners in divisional series.

By adding another wild card team in each league, MLB is guaranteeing a "win-or-go-home" game every year. The final day of the 2011 season was what many consider to be the most exciting day in baseball history, as numerous teams had the playoffs hanging in the balance until the last out of the regular season. We also remember the excitement of teams playing 163rd games to break ties after the usual 162, like the White Sox played in 2008.

In effect, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are institutionalizing the 163rd game whether two teams are tied in the standings or not. The league is trying to take a page out of the NCAA Tournament playbook—play-in games!—where more is always better. The official justification is that it gives an additional edge to the division winners versus the wild cards, whose road to the World Series is considered too easy by some.

A single game elimination for the opening round, however, screws with the integrity of baseball's post-season, which is based on series. The realities of starting pitching increases the importance of a multi-game series in baseball even more so than in any other sport, because it's not always the same nine guys out there. The nature of the game is that multiple matches are needed to truly determine who's the better team in a way a single game cannot.

The Red Sox's David Ortiz agrees, "One game? That's kind of crazy ... It'd make more sense for two wild cards to play at least a two-out-of-three series while the other teams take a break for three days because they won their divisions."