Baseball is doing a lot of things right these days. It has labor peace. It had riveting pennant races and a stirring postseason. It has someone other than the Yankees or Red Sox winning the World Series.
Now, these latest huge moves have me confused, mildly concerned and thoroughly intrigued.
I love the expected new playoff setup, expanding from eight teams to 10, which could start as early as next season. I hate the new interleague setup.
The Astros are moving from the N.L. to the A.L. in 2013 to balance the leagues — 15 teams in each. That sounds OK, but the odd totals mean there has to be inter-league play right through the last day of the season. Can you imagine if the Tigers and Twins are scrapping for the division lead and the Tigers, by quirk of schedule, are closing with a four-game series against, say, the Cardinals?
No DH means no Victor Martinez. That happens already with inter-league play but it never happens late in the season. Ugh. I’ve grown weary of inter-league play anyhow, and now it could be even more disruptive.
Here’s the positive: By balancing the leagues, baseball can add another wildcard team in each, and it might do so with a bold, risky move. Yessir, get ready for baseball’s play-in game!
The number of postseason spots will rise to 10 — still not an absurd percentage out of 30 teams — and the leagues will split into six divisions of five teams each. The stunner is, the wildcards would play a ONE-GAME showdown to advance.
One game. One shot. One fascinating idea.
By doing it that way, baseball avoids a longer extra round that would push the playoffs deeper into the cold. It also gives teams a much, much stronger incentive to win their divisions and avoid the one-and-done wildcard scenario. I think that’s great. It means managers will lean heavily on their ace — Justin Verlander, for instance — for that one game.
More discussion, more drama. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s an inspired attempt by baseball to keep things interesting.