Swing and a Miss? MLB’s postseason just got longer, but is it the right decision

Jason Cuevas & Ryan Spoehr, Clarion staff

After the 2011 season, Major League Baseball announced it will expand its playoff system to include 10 teams instead of eight. It will be the second time since the strike in 1994 that the playoff system will be expanded. Now, there will be two wild card teams from each league, resulting with a playoff game between the two teams to earn a berth into the Division Series. The purists are surprisingly divisive on the issue playoff expansion. Normally, they are vocally supportive of one point of view. Some say it waters down the dramatics of the final week of the Major League season. As the MLB season is unfolding, Clarion sports editor Jason Cuevas and editor in chief Ryan Spoehr go head-to-head on this issue.

The Sports Guy’s Take

One of the most exciting events in all of sports is watching teams compete in a one game playoff in Major League Baseball. So what would be wrong with making sure that happened each and every year?

A lot.

Starting this season there will now be two teams that receive a wild card playoff spot in MLB. They will play one game to determine who will advance to the opening round series. This undermines the marathon that is the baseball season.

Baseball at its core is meant to be played over a number of days. When using your relief pitchers a manager always has in the back of his mind who will be available for the next day. No action takes place without thinking of what you will have left for tomorrow. Having playoff spots decided by just one game takes away form the heart of the game really is really about.

The playoffs are supposed to be an elite club. Over the course of 162 games you rise to the top. It is not meant to be like basketball or hockey where every mediocre team close to .500 makes the playoffs.

It’s a special reward to make the baseball playoffs. It shows that you have excelled over the course of an insanely long season. An entire crew of men came together for the long haul.

The new Wild Card team will now also be at a huge disadvantage. If you have one game to play in you have to use your best pitcher for it. The stakes are just too high not to. This means that your best pitcher will now also be at the back of the rotation It’s hard to enough to put out enough decent pitching as it is. With your ace suddenly at the end most teams are now at a disadvangent against whomever they are playing.

It is probably not going away, but one can hope that baseball realizes the folly in what they are doing. Lets keep baseball as the one sport where a playoff birth is really earned and just handed out haphazardly.

The Chief’s Take

However, some purists are saying it’s a good thing to expand the playoff system and add a team from each league.

It adds one more game to the slate of games. That game — a play-in game, is essentially what Major League Baseball is giving us. It will not be an additional series of games, but one game, essentially with the “win or go home” tagline, much like the “game 163” that has been seen more frequently lately in MLB.

In 2009, the Minnesota Twins played the Detroit Tigers in a sudden death play-in game to determine the American League Central Division winner. In that 6-5 win by the Twins, the game was watched by an average of 6.543 million people. In Minnesota, there was a 27.1 rating and 24.6 rating in Detroit. It was the highest rated regular season game overall in 2009.

People regularly tune into these games that determine an entrant into MLB’s Division Series, especially within the home markets. Why not take advantage of that?

That’s not the only reason why adding two teams is the right thing to do. There is also the practicality part of it. It adds more incentive to win the division. The three division winners now get a bye and the two Wild Card teams have to go into the Division Series at a disadvantage, possibly even after using their best pitcher just to get in the postseason.

Ever since the Wild Card was added in 1995, every playoff team had the same chance of winning the World Series, including the teams with the best and worst records. Now, the Wild Card entrants who will not have the best record in the league and in some cases won’t have as good a record as any of the division winners, will not have as much of a chance.

It is a debate that will likely continue far beyond the 2012 playoffs. In fact, it will likely continue until the next time MLB considers adding more rounds to their postseason.