Monday, November 22, 2010

It isn't broke, but they're fixing it for the money - Part II

Just last week at the Winter Meetings, baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced that baseball will likely move forward with playoff expansion for 2010. [ ]. This is not a particularly good decision, and it seems to be motivated almost exclusively by a desire to make more money for people who are already absurdly rich at the cost of deflating a great product.

This is hardly new in sports (I wrote about some NCAA football rule changes back in 2008), but it's reprehensible every time it comes up. This proposal would generate some more gate and television revenue while watering down the playoffs and awarding a fairly outrageous advantage to a division winner.

Bud, ever the master strategist, had this to offer: "Eight is a very fair number, but so is 10."

Wham! The logic train has come through on the track, steaming over all the opposition. If eight teams is fair, so is ten! QED!

Jayson Stark came out with a column back in mid-September that supports it on the grounds that it incentivizes a team playing for first place, because it gives division winners a bigger advantage. In general, Jayson Stark knows what he's talking about and the man obviously has a depth of baseball knowledge. But I don't think he's accurate here: while it could increase September excitement, do we really need to invite a worse team to the playoffs just to get the Wild-Card team to try harder?

And Jayson's article (which came out on September 10), was ostensibly written with the obvious example of the Yankees and Rays, who were both assured of a playoff spot, but were fighting for a division crown. Sure, the new system would've made their run for the division title a little more exciting ... by giving the distant-third-place Red Sox a chance to knock one of them them out?

Not to mention that this proposed system would have completely eliminated the drama in the National League this year, when the Braves, Padres and Giants all entered the last weekend knowing that only two would make the playoffs. That was an exciting last day of the season, one that would've been meaningless under the new system.

Had the system been in place this year, the Red Sox and Padres would have made the playoffs. While these teams are decent teams (unlike, say, the under .500 record which gets you into the NBA playoffs), I don't see a strong argument for these teams on the basis of fairness. In fact, not a single article I've read justifies this move on account of giving a good team the chance to win the World Series.

In fact, there are really no justifications offered for this other than it would "increase playoff drama" and "make division winners count for more", both of which, IMO, are bullshit.

If this is adopted, the division winner who would play the winner of the Wild-Card round would have a rested staff ready to face an opponent who just spent their top two or three pitchers. Although that would incentivize a team's desire to win home-field advantage, that seems wildly unfair to the division winner with the second-best record, who wouldn't get to face the WC team.

The other three major sports all have a playoff system which rewards nearly half the league with a playoff spot. This results in bloated playoffs (which nobody likes) that drag on for months at a time. The other sports have no sense of end-of-season drama, since all the good teams are assured of a playoff spot, and the only teams battling for entry are teams that don't really deserve to be there.

Baseball should be proud of its differences from the other major sports. Adding playoff teams is never going to increase the playoff drama. It's only going to increase the revenues going into the hands of owners.


pnoles said...

This really makes me mad.

Sometimes, the 2nd best team in baseball is a wild card team. Now they have to do a play-in series???

Another annoying part is that this will really make the baseball playoffs drag on, with 6 teams just sitting around waiting for the wild card teams to finish their series.


Biggus Rickus said...

And this is why I don't support even a +1 version of a Division I-A football playoff. Playoffs always expand.

Anonymous said...

Bud Selig fucking sucks. This idea is horseshit, and it gets annoying when these rich fucks try to justify horrible ideas like this by talking about how they will improve the playoff drama when anyone with two eyes can see the only reason this is going to happen is to make rich motherfuckers even richer.

dan-bob said...

God bless you, Anonymous.

You're welcome here any day of the week.

Tonus said...

This is clearly a money grab, and without shortening the regular season I figure we'll be spending Thanksgiving 2012 watching baseball playoffs (or the end of the world).

But I don't think it will do much to change the excitement of the regular season. Some years the format will make it less exciting (no reason to fight for that last spot, since there are two) and some years the format will make it more exciting (three teams fighting for one slot? How about six or seven fighting for two?).

I do cringe at the thought of seeing baseball's playoff picture resemble the NFL's, where ESPN spends 90 minutes each week trying to explain all of the possible finishes. And I'm sure the rest of the AL will enjoy watching the entire eastern division make the playoffs every year. Baseball does two things every year, it seems: make shitloads of money, and offer really really bad ideas.

Mike said...

Long time reader,first time commenter.
First you inspired me to do my own blog,thank you for that.
Second,while I hate this idea.I have to admit it would make my team (Red Sox)and the AL east in general more compelling at least for people who like them.Toronto,and Baltimore are not that far from being competitive.
Personally I think they should have a tier system,where you go buy finances and get rid of NL/AL designations and just group everyone by finances.An Ex would be Mets,Phil,Yanks,Red Sox,Baltimore in same division.
Cheap geographical teams be lumped together like Atl,Pitt,Both Fla teams etc.
Just group them by area code and finances with the caveat that the teams who spend money get to play teams that do not in the first round in a 7 game series,shorten the season to 140 games and you would have almost as many games as now with the added bonus of ending before October.
My 2 cents of horribly flawed anlysis.