Yes, I get all the arguments for the new playoff format. I know it was too easy for the wild-card winner to waltz to the World Series. I know there was little incentive to winning a division championship. And I know that even by adding two more teams, Major League Baseball’s postseason still is the most exclusive among major professional sports.
I still don’t like it, mostly because now a team that finishes in third place in its division now has a chance to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in late October/early November. I don’t like that.
I also don’t like that just mere months after the most exciting finish to the regular season in my lifetime, Bud Selig is messing with a good thing — and potentially assuring we’ll never see anything like the fascinating show the Red Sox, Rays and others put on in the 11th hour of 2011.
I also don’t get what MLB’s rush was. OK, yes I do: Money. But frankly, it could’ve saved itself some headaches by waiting a year — and installing it in 2013. That allows the schedule-markers time to squeeze in the additional playoff games, and makes things fair, too.
The Astros are moving to the American League in 2013, putting 15 teams in each league. This year, though, five of 14 AL teams will make the playoffs, while five of 16 get in from the NL.
Oh well. We’ve got what we’ve got: An expanded playoff for 2012, with three division champions and two wild-card teams from each league making the playoffs. And I’ll admit: While I’m skeptical now, no doubt I’ll be glued to the tube for those one-game playoffs between the wild-card winners.
Those definitely add intrigue. Everybody has loved those one-game tiebreakers over the years, none more than Padres-Rockies in 2007 and Tigers-Twins in 2009. Those two games went a combined 25 innings. But those one-game playoffs have been rare, with just 13 ever, six in the wild-card era.
Now we get two every year, at least — and somebody, we’ll see the Tigers playing another do-or-die game.
That actually got me a bit curious: How would the new playoff system have affected Detroit over the last 16 years. The answer: Quite a bit, actually.
For starters, it might’ve added a postseason appearance to the franchise’s rich history. Frankly, 2007 would’ve been a peach. The Tigers and Mariners both finished with 88 wins and would’ve tied for the second wild-card spot. What does that mean? Well, Detroit and Seattle would’ve had to play a one-game playoff just to determine that. Then, if the Tigers had beaten the Mariners, they would’ve had to fly to New York to meet the Yankees, the other wild-card winner, in another one-game playoff the next day.
Then, had the Tigers survived sudden death again, they would’ve met the AL East champion Red Sox in a best-of-five series. Talk about long odds to advance past that: Presumably, Detroit would’ve burned its top two starters in the two one-game playoffs and would’ve had to start Jeremy Bonderman and his 5.01 ERA in Game 1 against the Red Sox. Boston, well-rested, would’ve started 20-game winner Josh Beckett.
You think that would’ve been something? Well, just imagine if the Tigers and Twins both had won one more game during the 2009 regular season. They still would’ve had to play the one-game tiebreaker to settle the division championship. Then the loser of that, with 87 wins, would’ve had to play the Rangers in a one-game game playoff to determine the second wild-card spot, with the winner of that going on to face other wild-card winner, the Red Sox, in another one-game playoff.
Three one-game playoffs. In back-to-back days. All before moving on to play in the ALDS!
Something to think about.
Also, think about this: The Tigers definitely would’ve been affected in 2006, and would’ve had a much harder route to their World Series appearance. Detroit, of course, blew the division championship down the stretch that season, but had known for weeks it had the wild card to fall back on.
But if the expanded playoff format was around back then, the Tigers would’ve had to face the White Sox in a one-game playoff just to advance to the ALDS against the Twins. And that do-or-die playoff would’ve been no picnic for a Detroit ballclub that lost 12 of its 19 games against Chicago during the regular season.