As expected, Major League Baseball has started making their changes as announced in the new collective bargaining agreement. Upon agreement between the players and owners in the new CBA, commissioner Bud Selig wanted to immediately include the additional wild card, which was to go into effect in 2013.
The Postseason will likely now consist of five teams from each league – three division winners and two wild cards. The two wild cards will then play a one-game, winner-takes-all playoff game before proceeding to the LDS series.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports initially reported this change yesterday afternoon, making it known that nothing was official yet, but that baseball could announce the move as soon as today. He notes several problems that are tying up the decision process.
First off, baseball’s schedule really doesn’t allow for this kind of change. The season isn’t starting until April 5. The final day of the regular season is Oct. 3. With the playoffs scheduled to start, in its previous format, in the days ahead, the World Series was scheduled to begin on Oct. 24. Those days would likely be pushed back further this season with the additional wild card game, making another late October/early November World Series.
Baseball was never looking at the complete good of the game when they made this deal. Clearly this was about the entertainment that television audiences will get out of a one-game fight for their lives.
Baseball seemed all too perfect on Sept. 28, when four teams pulled off wins that changed the playoff picture completely. The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals made the Postseason on the final day, thanks to wins from the Baltimore Orioles and Phillies. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox missed the playoffs because of losses on the season’s final day. That was your one-game playoff.
I see baseball’s angle. Can you guarantee that kind of drama every year? No. But after this year, after watching the underdog team find a way into the Postseason with the slimmest of odds, then win baseball’s biggest prize, why change what was already good?
Charlie Manuel sees it that way too.
“You shouldn’t get nothing for second or third,” Manuel said. “Baseball has set it up the way they want, of course, and I have nothing to do with it. I’m not knocking baseball at all, but in my opinion I’d like to see the two best teams in baseball in the World Series.”
“It’s hard to swallow sometimes when you play all year and you win a lot of games and you lose to somebody who did not play as good as you consistently all year,” Manuel said. “But that’s the way it goes, and that’s the process we live with, so I’m not knocking it.”
The decision actually both helps and hurts the Phillies. In one sense, yes, it does give additional teams who may not have been as good over the regular season, but it also helps the Phillies as they try to continue a run of consecutive playoff appearances. Remember the days when the Phillies had several near misses. 2006, 2005 and other previous seasons had come down to one final week of a race for one wild card spot. Now, the Phillies don’t need to be that one team. It is very conceivable that the Phillies could still enjoy a playoff series even while finishing third in the NL East.
That could keep the Phillies current run of success going much further, especially if the Phillies don’t steadily decline from the helm of the NL East and have an off year.
There is still way too much time between now and the Postseason, so we’ll have to see just how well this process works. But baseball is trying to get people interested in baseball again, even if it means changing the way baseball has been for several years.