Monday, April 25, 2011

Playoffs or Regular Season? Which should decide?

There is speculation that the major leagues will expand its playoffs by adding a second wild card team. It is instructive to look back at recent seasons to see what this would do.

In the American League:

2010 - Yankees and Red Sox, 
2009 - Rangers and Red Sox
2008 - Yankees and Red Sox, 
2007 - Yankees and (Seattle or Detroit)
2006 - Tigers and White Sox
2005 - Indians and  Red Sox
2004 - Oakland and Red Sox
2003 - Seattle and Red Sox
2002 - Anaheim and (Red Sox or Mariners)
2001 - Oakland and Twins

Its important to realize that the Red Sox were the wild card team 5 of the 7 times they are on that list. The Yankees were the wild card team in 2 of 3 times they appear. This is not, as some have argued, a plan to help those two teams get into the playoffs. But what is interesting is that in 3 or 4 of those ten seasons, the wild card playoff would be between the second and third place team from the same division. There is a similar pattern in the National League. In these instances you are substituting a one or three game playoff for the results of a 162 game season. 

If baseball wants to expand the playoffs, they ought to go back to 4 divisions. Then let the second and third place teams in the divisions play each other for the chance to play the division winners. Eliminate "wild cad" teams altogether and let the regular season competition in each divisions decide who makes the playoffs. Would anyone really care if the 4th place team occasionally has a better record than the other division's third place team? I don'[t think so, not unless the 4th place team happens to be the Twins. This would restore the prestige of winning the regular season and it would create real competition within the divisions with teams battling one another for the opportunity to get into the playoffs.

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