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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bud Selig: MLB Is Considering Adding Playoff Teams, Additional Wild Cards

Commissioner Bud Selig was on hand for the opening of Target Field in Minnesota Monday where the Twins hosted the Red Sox. He spent some time in ESPN’s broadcast booth to talk about many of the issues facing the game. Selig discussed the League’s drug testing policy, MLB’s efforts to get more African-Americans playing the game, the plight of small market teams, and the issue of playing the World Series in November, amongst others. I could do a separate post on each issue in baseball but I’ll stick to the possibility of MLB expanding the playoffs for this one. Here’s how the conversation went between play-by-play man Dan Schulman and commissioner Bud Selig in the bottom of the second inning:

Schulman: “Do you see any change in the playoff format? Do you ever see another Wild Card team?”

Selig: “Well, I remember all the abuse I took about the Wild Card to begin with and now everybody wants more. I would like to see more. You know we only have eight out of 30 — the least number of any sport — we have the most direct playoff system. It’s something we’re going to consider. In some ways I like it, in some ways I don’t. It’s very attractive.”

Mr. Selig, for all the complaints I have about baseball (the W.S. ending in November, the strong correlation between high payroll and long-term success, instant replay), the playoffs is where baseball has it almost perfect. I am a champion and proponent of systems that highly reward strong play during the regular season as MLB’s currently does. Four teams out of 16 in each league works perfectly for me. Just having the Wild Card in addition to division races means many teams are still involved in a playoff race the entire season and that keeps fan excitement up. The only playoff change I would want is expanding the Divisional Series to best of seven, not five. I hope that will be addressed in the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations. But please, please, please don’t expand the amount of Wild Cards — the playoff system is excellent as is.

I’ll tell you something that would be great to drive fan interest and excitement and help break up the 162 game schedule. I would divide the regular season into two halves the way they do it in the minor leagues. Fans across baseball love the feeling of starting fresh and having hope on Opening Day. Wouldn’t it be great to have that feeling a second time each year? It would make the trade deadline strategy much more complex too. Top two teams each half make the postseason and in the case of repeats, it then moves to the team with the next best record. Then you seed them 1-4 based on best overall record, just like the current system. I think that would really break up the length of the 162 game season and create a lot more interest.

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