According to multiples sources, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that with the approved sale of the Houston Astros, and their subsequent move from the National League to the American League, the new 15 team leagues will be comprised of three divisions and give playoff berths to not only the division winners, but also the winner of a one game playoff between the two next best teams beginning in 2013 at the latest, with a chance that the play-in game will happen this coming year. In order to even out the leagues in this fashion, there will be interleague series occurring throughout the season, instead of during a single designated time.

While the introduction of a one game playoff between the two teams with the best records in the league not to win a division is certainly an exciting venture, it’s something of a wasted opportunity. With the Astros joining the AL, MLB could have restructured itself into bringing back the two division set up that enhanced rivalries and most importantly, ensured a more even schedule between the teams competing for wild card entry.

Under this scenario, the two division winners plus the team with the next best record would’ve been guaranteed a playoff spot with the next two best records facing off in the play-in game for which MLB seems to be hankering.

What I don’t like about the new set up is that it does nothing to change the uneven schedules most obvious in the American League East where the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles all compete. It also places the teams with the two best records after the division winners on equal footing. If we’re talking in terms of ensuring that the best teams make it to the playoffs under a five team, three division format, then one Wild Card makes perfect sense.

If we look at the final standings of past seasons, more often than not the Wild Card winner finished with a better record than at least one of the division winners. The next best team rarely does this. When the Wild Card winner comes from a division like the AL East, it means that despite a tougher schedule they likely managed to play better than one of the other two division winners throughout the season. A second Wild Card winner, didn’t do this.

What I do like about the new system is that it does give an extra day or two of rest to the teams that won their divisions and puts an added importance to doing so.

Overall, I feel as though too much emphasis is put on the arbitrarily geographic divisions that were put in place at a time when air travel and the like weren’t as common as they are now. Division rivalries are great, and the additional games against individual teams who play somewhat nearby are great, but fairness is infinitely better. Playing 18 games against the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros is unlikely to ever be comparable to playing 18 games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles.

Update: According to the L.A. Times:

Teams are expected to play 72 games — 18 each — against division opponents, 60 against teams in their league’s other two divisions and 30 interleague games.

Thanks to Latrell in the comments section for the link.

Comments (63)

  1. People are looking at this as if it’s a certainty that the Blue Jays will make the playoffs. Even if this system had existed since 1995 the only time the Jays would have qualified as the additional wild card team was 1998.

    • The fact that the Jays wouldn’t have been the 2nd theoretical Wild Card in the last 15 years doesn’t change the fact that it will still make it easier for the club to make the playoffs going forward.

      They’re not replaying the last 15 years, you know?

    • the problem with your statement is that it doesn’t at all account for offseason or trade deadline outlook.

  2. I don’t think adding two wild card teams was really necessary, but it will certainly make things more interesting — at least for Blue Jays fans.

  3. Wait, does that mean three wild card teams per league? Whaaaaa?

  4. Two additional wild cards per league?

  5. Correction: not two divisions. Still going to be three.

  6. This may come back to haunt a lot of fans. If your favourite team is the higher-seeded Wild Card team (ie 95 wins) and they lose that one game play-off to the lower seded team (i.e. 91 wins), you’ll be wishing for the “old” way.

    • Just like in 1985, the first year of the 7-game league championship series, when the Jays had a 3 games to 1 series lead and would have gone to the World Series under the previous best-of-five system.

    • One could always point out the most extreme case of the wild card era (2001): Oakland (102-60) would have had to play Minnesota (85-77). Yes, that’s a 17 game difference folks. But at least that last playoff spot would have had a race (Minn 85, CWS 83, Bos 82, Tor 80).

  7. My general attitude is that more playoff teams > less playoff teams, but doesn’t this change actually put both wild-card teams at a huge disadvantage in LDS play? They won’t have the luxury of aligning their rotations, and they’ll have to travel at least twice in a two-day span; the lower-ranked team will have to travel to the other team’s field for one game, then back to play the team with the best record if they win. Imagine the Rays flying west to play the Angels, then flying to Detroit to take on the Tigers in the LDS the very next day?

    Meanwhile, the division winners will have at least a couple of days off while this is all going on, and they’ll be able to set up their rotations and rest their players. Normally I’m all in favour of playoff expansion, but this seems like the wrong way to do it; it heavily favours the division winners and puts the WC teams in a very ugly position. I don’t think we’ll see nearly as many Wild Card teams making it to the World Series under the new system, and the recent success of the Wild Card teams is part of what makes the MLB playoffs so exciting… Selig could have done better than this!

    • Ya! This sounds just terrible! This would mean that there would be a guaranteed one day elimination day like this year: http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2011/09/29/good-god/

    • I disagree. I think it’s good that the Wild Card teams have a disadvantage so there is more of a reward for winning your division. The NFL makes their Wild Card teams play an extra game while the others get a week of rest. This makes certain that Wild Card teams aren’t treated the same as division winners.

      • Um… that’s the old NFL system. Under the current one, two division winners play in the first week while the best two get byes.

        • My bad. So CFL then. Either way, the point was that a division winner (or team with a better record) should have an advantage over a team that isn’t.

          • The division winners already have an advantage, namely the fact that they’re playing the majority of their games at home. Now, they get extra days of rest to align their rotation, and they get to play a team most likely tired from extra travel. That’s a much greater advantage than before, and more than most division winners in other sports.

            Winning your division should guarantee you home-field/ice/court advantage for the first round, but not much more – otherwise you’re basically turning the WC teams into also-rans without much chance of success. It might increase the competitiveness of the regular season, but at the cost of decreasing competiveness in the playoffs. Not a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion.

  8. As a cynical fuck I can’t help but think this move helps make certain that both Boston and New York are playing every October.

  9. I’d much rather they do away with division winners and just send the top 4 in each league.

  10. Lamp – you are correct

    • How does this help Boston and New York? Both teams were doing just fine making the playoffs under the old system.

      If anything this helps the Jays, Orioles (I guess) and the Rays.

      • 1) Boston missed the playoffs on the last day of the season this year. 2) With the new rules, that dramatic and insanely awesome last night of the season (BOS and ATL blowing it, TB and STL sneaking in) wouldn’t have mattered.

        • What does Boston missing the playoffs on the last game of the season have to do with anything? They made the playoffs in 09, 08, 07, 05, 04 … etc etc etc right? Despite the last two years, making the playoffs with one wildcard hasn’t been an issue for the Yankees and Red Sox.

          Yeah – that crazy night wouldn’t have mattered nearly as much with an extra team… but that doesn’t preclude there being JUST as dramatic a night involving the 5th and 6th best teams in each league.

          People said the same thing when they added the original Wild Card.

          • BoSox missing the playoffs on the last game of the season has to do with an example for answering your first question of “how does this help Boston and New York?”. It helps them because in the years that they missed the playoffs, had there been a 2nd wild card, they would have made it in.

            So… if in most recent years, some combo of 2 of TB, NYY, or BOS qualified, then adding another wild card increases the chances of those 3 teams making it in.

            It doesn’t help any team in the East. It helps teams in West and Central who get inflated records.

          • “but that doesn’t preclude there being JUST as dramatic a night involving the 5th and 6th best teams in each league.”

            Truth.

        • ” With the new rules, that dramatic and insanely awesome last night of the season (BOS and ATL blowing it, TB and STL sneaking in) wouldn’t have mattered.”

          Right. This year. But it doesn’t mean that a situation like that can’t happen again under this system fighting the the 5th playoff spot.

          And let’s be honest here… its unlikely a scenario like that would unfold again under the current system.

          • any OTHER team in the East (i.e. Jays, O’s)

          • “BoSox missing the playoffs on the last game of the season has to do with an example for answering your first question of “how does this help Boston and New York?”. It helps them because in the years that they missed the playoffs, had there been a 2nd wild card, they would have made it in.”

            Boston has made the playoffs in 09,08,07,05,04 and 03. The Yankees have made the playoffs in 10, 09, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01 and 00. The second WC would have gone to Boston in 11 and 10, but not 06.

            Adding a second WC does make it very likely that both teams will make the playoffs, but it has been very likely that both Bos and NYY will make the playoffs every year this decade anyway.

            “It doesn’t help any team in the East. It helps teams in West and Central who get inflated records.”

            The 3rd place AL East team usually has a better record than the 2nd place teams in the AL Central or AL West.

            I’m just not really sure how this can be spun negatively for Jays fans. They have one less team to climb over, playing in the hardest division in sports. It doesn’t insure anything, but it absolutely makes the playoffs more likely.

        • “any OTHER team in the East (i.e. Jays, O’s)”

          So you’re saying that adding a 2nd AL Wildcard team doesn’t make it easier for the Jays to compete for a playoff spot?

          • I know what you’re saying, that it’s one less team to climb over in the East.

            However, it also makes it easier for teams in the West and Central to qualify, because of their inflated records vs some of the “lesser” teams of the Central and West.

            While it may mean the Jays odds have improved, it also improves the odds for teams like the Angels, Oakland, and whoever isn’t shitting the bed and has the one-off hot year in the Central (i.e. this year’s Tigers).

          • “I know what you’re saying, that it’s one less team to climb over in the East.”

            Yeah.

            “While it may mean the Jays odds have improved, it also improves the odds for teams like the Angels, Oakland, and whoever isn’t shitting the bed and has the one-off hot year in the Central (i.e. this year’s Tigers).”

            I’m not trying to troll you, I respect your opinion here..

            But looking at what you said here..

            1) It improves the odds for the Jays to make the playoffs – true.

            2) Also improves the odds for teams in the AL West/Central to make the playoffs – true.

            The fact that #2 is true does not make #1 untrue.

            This improves the odds for the Jays to make the playoffs. Other teams as well, of course. But it improves the chances of the Jays making the playoffs going forward. Playing in the hardest division to make the playoffs in sports, that is a good thing for this team IMO. It benefits them (as well as other teams).

  11. One game playoffs in baseball are basically like flipping a coin, no?

    • A seven game series is like flipping a coin. A one game playoff is like flipping a coin that’s guaranteed to land on its side.

      • Wait, so you’re saying that now everybody wins? PLAYOFFS!

      • Exactly, Parkes. It seems like an illusion (a trick is what a whore does for money) to me that the playoffs are exciting if more teams make it in and the whole thing becomes a random draw for the world series winner. Baseball’s a game of big samples leading to the most talented team winning.

        I’m in favour of eliminating the regular season all together and having a long, round-robin like playoff system where all the teams play each other a bunch of times, and the top two, or maybe the top four teams from the round robin play each other to decide who the best team is. You could start the round robin mega-tournament of 30 teams in late March, early April and have them play, say, 160 games (give or take a couple) until sometime at the end of September, and then play in the cold of October for a winner-takes-all prize. If 10 teams making the playoffs is better than 8, why not have 30 teams make it? That would be AWESOME! Especially if it went on for like 7 months!

  12. The Jays still won’t make the playoffs, not anytime soon at least.

    • How can you make that judgement before the offseason has really even started?

      The Jays might have the top farm system in baseball, and have no real terrible contracts around their next. Who knows what trades/signing they might make?

      If the Jays only have to be better than 2 of the Yanks/BoSox/Rays and the best second place team in the Central and West, then I don’t see why at least they don’t have a shot at contending for that 5th Wild Card spot next year (depending on what they do of course).

  13. Will each division have wild card team now?

  14. So to “even the playing field” teams will still be playing unbalanced schedules.

    Meh. I don’t mind it as much as others I don’t think.

  15. A one game play off is slightly better than a home run derby. If you have to use your ace in that game, there is little chance the winner will be able to make through the next round. Make it a 3 game series or leave it as is. Even better- fair league schedules and pick the four teams with the best records.

    Who cares if the Jays make the playoffs it it is only for one game. So lame.

  16. It’s simple really: Do away with divisions, balance the schedule, top 4 teams to the playoffs. None of this play-in game BS. It’s a cheap funhouse mirror type of trick designed to manufacture excitement. Bah humbug, get off my lawn Selig!

    • Also +1 to Lamp for nailing the fact that this virtually guarantees that the Red Sux and the MFY will make the playoffs every single goddamn year. FOX be praised! [Getting Blanked]ing greedy [Getting Blanked]s are ruining baseball with each passing year. This is the worst possible outcome. Ridiculous.

  17. Bingo, Tom Jackson. Bingfuckingo.

  18. Bingfuckingo indeed. But even if they wanted divisions, why 3? Two divisions, two divisions winners, two next best records = four teams per League.

    I think they just keep making things worse.

  19. Go back to the good old days of just a World Sereis, I say. AL plays balanced schedule versus all AL teams, NL plays balanced NL, top teams make the World Series. Quit watering it down. I think the 2 best teams after 162 game earn the right to play for the championship.

  20. @ Tom Jackson

    That would make WAY too much sense.

  21. I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way. What this plan does is make the playoffs more concentrated, not diluted. It rewards the division winners. If you want to make the playoffs, then win the division. This is awesome. It brings back the division race. It makes winning the crown important. A wildcard winner should not get the same reward as a division winner (now just make sure all the teams in the same division have the same schedule).

    A division winner essentially gets a 1 game advantage in the first round. That is, division winners need to win 3 games to make it to the LCS. Wildcard teams need to win 4. This is better than it is now, where a division winner has the same path as a wildcard. Division winners should have an advantage over wildcard teams.

    Making the wildcard teams play a series of games is ludicrous. People who complain that the wildcard could lose their whole season on one game are missing the point of the season. If they didn’t win the division, then they haven’t made the playoffs. They’re essentially getting a gift of a one-game shot to make the playoffs.

    • That’s only partly true. The team that finishes with the best team in the League will play the winner of the wild card play-in game. The other LDS game will feature two division winners who will play off with zero advantage for having made the playoffs, as the league winner will have.

  22. +1 to Lamp as well. Red Sox & Yankees will be in every year. That being said I do like the idea as it will change the state of the pennant races completely. July 31st deadline may be quieter as fewer teams will truly be out of the race, but that just might make the August deadline busier.

    The one drawback I see is it still does not help those teams with the longest playoff droughts. I’m not sure what the solution would be but the Pirates, Nationals, Jays, Orioles, and Royals are still at a disadvantage even with an extra team. Maybe when they are out of it in 2012 those teams can get a ransom at the trade deadline.

    • “+1 to Lamp as well. Red Sox & Yankees will be in every year.”

      I think the first WC added in 05 ensured that. The last two years excepted, they pretty much do both make it every year already.

      “The one drawback I see is it still does not help those teams with the longest playoff droughts.”

      I know I’m being a broken record, but I just don’t follow this logic. In no way does this make the playoffs a certainty or even a likelihood for a team like the Jays. But does it HELP their odds of reaching the playoffs? Of course it does.

  23. It’s a missed opportunity to introduce real parity to the regular season schedule in my opinion. If true inter league play is coming, then every team needs to play 2 series against every other team, one at home and one on the road. If one team plays the other 29 a 3 game series at home and away, that’s 29*6 = 174 games. Expand the regular season another 2 weeks to accommodate this, forget the one game play in (seriously? A one game series in baseball? Come on!) do away with divisions altogether, and the winners of each league play in the WS.

  24. Is home field advantage in the World Series still going to be decided by the All-Star game? That needs to change.

  25. From the L.A. Times:

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-1117-baseball-realignment-20111117,0,6145427.story

    The realignment will create three five-team divisions in each league and a more balanced schedule. Teams are expected to play 72 games — 18 each — against division opponents, 60 against teams in their league’s other two divisions and 30 interleague games.

    30 INTERLEAGUE GAMES?!?! Ugh.

    • Yay! A schedule that is even more unbalanced than what we have already. Awesome! Six games a year against our most natural rivals (Detroit and Cleveland). Wicked! Enough games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles to make you absolutely sick of seeing those teams. Outstanding! And almost twice as many interleague games. Stupendous! Someone please tell me how this is an improvement over the current system. I’m having a hard time seeing the upside here. Ugh.

  26. Giving the comments a quick read, it looks like James is a fuckin’ dick.

  27. God I wanted less interleague games not more….

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