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Fixing the Baseball Playoffs. Ideas?

Live from the Wilson Building, seat of District government, comes this proposal to fix the Major League Baseball playoffs. Bud Selig, of course, recently said he'd like to make it more difficult for wild-card teams to advance to the World Series, which seems to be an annual occurrence. David Grosso, a staffer for D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose, submits this proposal, which was co-authored by Donald Kaufman, after lengthy discussions. They'd like your thoughts. They write:

Bud Selig does not have a reputation for good judgment, but he is correct about one matter: the path of the wild card to the World Series is too easy. Baseball should eliminate the wild card and enhance the integrity of the 162-game regular season. Here is our plan:

Split the regular season into two 81-game segments. The winner of each half-season segment in a division would advance to a best 2-of-3 game division playoff to be played over three consecutive days. The division playoff winner with the best regular season record would receive a bye to the league championship series, and the remaining teams would play a best 3-of-5 game division playoff over the next five consecutive days. The remainder of the playoffs would proceed under the current format.

What if one team in a division wins both 81-game segments? That team would receive a bye to the league championship series. Moreover, as a further reward for being the only team to win both 81-game segments, the team with the bye would play all of the league championship games at home after the other four teams complete their 8-day playoff.

If two teams win both 81-game segments, the team with the best regular season record would receive a bye to the league championship series. The other team would receive a bye to the 5-game series and would play all 5 games at home.

Our plan would bring all teams back into contention at mid-season and provide an incentive for teams to have the best overall season record not only against the rest of their division, but against the rest of their league. Second best in a division race will no longer be good enough.

Bud, while you're at it, it's time to move the World Series out of late October football weather. Move the World Series to a warm climate for a week-long Super Bowl-style celebration and extravaganza.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 26, 2006; 10:11 AM ET
Categories:  MLB  
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Wow, that's kind of complicated.

Let's take that idea and make it simpler:

Ditch the 2 League 6 Division format. Go back to the 2 League 4 Divisions.

Then you can take the First half, second half winners from each division and make those post season participants. If a team leads wire to wire, they can get a bye, or if MLB absolutely needs the revenue the second place finisher could advance.

Keep the first round within the division, NL East 1st Half Champion plays the NL East 2nd Half Champion. It'll increase the rivalry aspect within the division.

That maintains four post-season teams in each league.

And while we're at it, compress the season. You're right that late October games are silly. Bring back the scheduled double header, and look at ditching Inter-League play, because the novelty's worn off. My other suggestion would be to make Inter-League play more like the FA Cup in England and not count towards the standings.

Posted by: Kim | October 26, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Complicated indeed...

Since my math skills don't kick in until mid-afternoon, just how many total playoff games could be played under this proposed format? If it's less than the current format, that proposal doesn't stand a chance. Money money money.

And I don't like the half-season winner format. It would drastically change baseball. Playoff-cinching celebrations at the end of June? The Royals still in the playoff hunt in August? Managers resting their starting pitchers in July if they clinch a first-half spot? Meh. I don't think so...

Posted by: Reader Glenn | October 26, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

They did the half-season division winner format in 1981 and it was a disaster. The Reds had the best record in baseball that year but did not make the playoffs because they finished 2nd in both halves. Baseball is about consistency over the long, grueling season. You shouldn't reward half season winners.

Keep the current wildcard system but make the wildcard format 2-1-2 with the wildcard only getting 1 home game. Or make the division round best of 7 and shorten the season to 154 games like it was when Babe Ruth played.

Posted by: John | October 26, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse


Good points. But it's also a decent way to make folks understand that those games in May and June really mean something.

And what's the matter with giving KC a little hope? It could mean that folks come out to the park feeling that they may see something meaningful.

Posted by: Kim | October 26, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

The 81 season was cut up like that due to the strike. Things may have been different if it were planned out.

If you switch back to a 154 game season, you'd need to put asterisks on all modern records.......

Posted by: John, | October 26, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The 2-1-2 system sounds like a good idea. The game of baseball is verrrrrry resistant to change (old schoolers are still grumbling about the wild card and having to use gloves in the field), so I think a small modification is the best way to go.

And that's a good point about Kansas City (I should know: I'm a life-long Padre fan). I'm sure attendance would be given a boost in a lot of places that have empty stadiums after July.

Just curious, what are the credentials of these proposal-writers? Are they fans or do they have connections to MLB?

Posted by: Reader Glenn | October 26, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I like have the long season...let's not shorten it. The reason to have winners of two halves is so that there is a reason for fans to show up again after the all star break. And teams wills till try in August and september because if they sweep both halves then they get a bye in the first round and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Posted by: David | October 26, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

The split season idea will never work. Here is a better plan: Use the current method to determine the four playoff teams in each league. Then have the teams play four games against each of the other three teams in their league; with an off day between match-ups, this "second season" would take two weeks to complete. Every team qualifying will be guaranteed to play twelve post-season games, with the two division winners being given the significant advantage of eight home games each. The owners and broadcasters will be happy because they will have 48 games played before the World Series. The fans will benefit because a team that loses a few games early will still have the chance to come back and clinch the pennant.

Posted by: CaeDawg | October 26, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I definitely agree that the season should be compressed - if that means asterisks, so be it - October is much too late for the World Series, and everybody at work is too busy with football at this point to care :( Don't know how I feel about the half-season thing ... but like Kim's suggestion to go back to 4 divisions.

Posted by: W | October 26, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

How about going with 2 wild-card winners who have to go head-to-head (3-game series, 5-game series, whatever) before advancing to the divisional series?

Then again, I don't want to wait until January for the World Series.

Posted by: Reader Glenn | October 26, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I put Selig's quotes through my patented Budinator Translation Device, and this is what came up:

"Our ratings are horrendous. It is clearly the fault of the wild card." And yet, when the Yankees are in it, the ratings are low because nobody wants to see the Yankees keep winning.

If wild card teams shouldn't be able to win the World Series, then there shouldn't even be a wild card. By definition, the very act of making the playoffs acknowledges that a team deserves to be there, and therefore win the World Series. They already have the toughest path in the playoffs - having to play the team with the best record (unless it's the same division), no home field advantage - so how can their playoff road be more difficult without creating an unnatural and unfair disadvantage? Should they be forced to have A-Rod on their team or something?

Posted by: Dave Lifton | October 26, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The problem with this year's world series isn't even the wild card. The problem is the Cardinals who managed to win their incredibly bad division. Hardly anybody even mentions the fact that the Tigers were the Wild Card winners, but everyone knows that the Cardinals would surpass the 88 Dodgers as the worst World Series winner of all team if it happened.

Posted by: Chris | October 26, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

This is, and I'd like to coin the phrase, the Mason effect. The teams that think they're supposed to win get bent out of shape when things don't go according to plan. And sadly, those teams and their fans never learn. You can bet every Big Ten and ACC bubble team that didn't make it into the tournament last year believes they could have made it to the Final Four had they taken Mason's place. But ask yourself, would you watch sports if the favorites always won? I can't, for the life of me, figure out how anyone roots against an underdog unless they're playing your favorite team. Big market clubs getting bounced by teams that "shouldn't even be there" is the reason many of us watch the playoffs.

And anyway, the second the Yankees qualify as the Wild Card and win the World Series, everyone will be convinced how great the system is.

The split season idea is intriguing, but I can't see how you can make it work with the trade deadline. Two deadlines makes no sense, and the potential for enormous change in the second half of the season slants things. Plus, playing time for September call-ups would be reduced if more teams were in the hunt for the second half-season title (as you'd assume would be the case in a short season). Then there is impact on spring training- if the first two months really meant anything, that dynamic would change as well. I say half-seasons are too drastic to work given these more subtle baseball conventions.

My fingers are tired.

Posted by: bryc3 | October 26, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I'm actually split on the split season thing.

Another way to get four teams into the playoffs is to go back to two divisions (I'm holding strong on that) and just take the top 2 teams from each division.

That washes out the possibility of a weak division producing a winner.

Posted by: Kim | October 26, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Two single tables (American and National)
No interleague play
16 teams in each league
10 games against each team in league (5 home, 5 away)

Top 4 in each table qualify for playoffs
1 v 4 and 2 v 3
All series are 7 games

Winner is USA's representative in the "World" Series (to be played against the best club team from Japan)

Posted by: Bryan76 | October 26, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine had a very good and simple solution: just make 4 divisions in each league; winner of each makes the playoffs; no wildcard. Then you have 8 division races each September instead of these quasi-races (e.g., Twins/Tigers) that keep happening with the wildcard. Of course, this also increases the chance of having a bad team make the playoffs from a bad division.

The first half/second half system is used by many minor leagues, but I agree with the others that it would be too much of a change. I'm also not convinced that first half winners would make a full effort in the second half. Baseball is not like football where rest gives you a clear advantage. Having a bye might be a disadvantage. Just look at the Tigers and their suddenly cold bats after the week layoff.

Posted by: Topher | October 26, 2006 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I would support a split season. My team is the Nats and as a team in progress, they can well use the second chance. It then gives the fans the feeling that the season starts over again after the all star break. That should help atendance and enthusiasm. The winners will be very good if not the very best teams and the quality of the play off games should improve.

Posted by: Richard | October 26, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Keep the 3 divisions in each league. At the end of the season, the 3 division champions from each league play a round-robin series against each other - either in a neutral city or the city of the team with the best record in each league. The way the round robin would work, would be each of the 3 teams in each league championship alternates playing each other. Whenever a team loses 4 games, it is dropped and the other two keep playing until one team loses it's 4th game. The whole thing would take 8-12 days and then on to the Series. Pretty unorthodox, but no more unorthodox than 3 divisions and a wildcard anyway.

Posted by: Andy | October 26, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

What would a split season to to trading and trade deadlines. A team close in June might make a big trade to get someone. They fail to win the first half, then have some injuries and dump those same players. At season's end the teams could look nothing like the team's opening day roster truly making it fantasy baseball (kinda like the Yankees with their trades at the deadline and the Nats with their injuries).

The minor leagues do split seasons, because the teams are completely different by the end of the year.

Like the NFL, four divisions in each league might be another alternative. The four division winners make the playoffs. Of course this would never go either, since it means two more teams. It's great for the owners pocketbooks, but further dilution of talent in the Bigs is unacceptable.

Posted by: Geoff | October 26, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse


The neutral site should be Omaha.

It kinda works for the college WS......

Posted by: Kim | October 26, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dan
I believe this Grosso fellow may be thinking miles above and ahead of the big wigs who are supposed to be thinking for Major League Baseball.Especially as we see the cold and rain creeping into the ever laster World Series play. A neutral site in a warm climate would go a long way toward better showcasing what is traditionally a warm season game. However, the money generated from television, which goes to pay the bloated salaries of ballplayers who perhaps forget what the wages received by the people who view their efforts make,really make most suggestions on making the event come earlier moot. I do agree that the wild card thing needs to go the same direction as the designated hitter thing- out the door. Gives me hope when people from inside the beltway can think outside the box. Maybe this Grosso fellow should be considered for Selig's job. Got a resume?

Posted by: mike from delaware | October 26, 2006 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Keep the six divisions but get rid of the national and american leagues. Have the 6 divisions winners make playoffs and only 1 wildcard for a total of 7 teams. The division winner with the best record would get a first round bye. For first round, should be best of 5. The team with the better record should host all 5 games with no off days. 2nd round should be best of 7 with a 2-2-3 format, with team with better record hosting games 5, 6, 7. World series should be 2-2-3 format, with 2 games apiece at each teams home and the last 3 games played at a warm weather neutral site.

Posted by: 1 wildcard only | November 21, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

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