When MLB reached their new CBA with the players, part of the new deal was adding additional playoff teams to the mix. The format, which will see a one-game play-in between two teams in each league, is, in this author’s opinion, a good idea. After all, MLB has the fewest percentage of playoff teams, and if you’re going to add more in, the one game, winner-moves-on, loser-goes-home format makes for excitement.
There’s more at play, of course. As is almost always the case, money (read: increased revenues) is a large driver. Not only do four clubs get the “we made the playoff” bounce with two clubs getting to host the games, but the league gets to shop the expanded Wild Card games to their broadcast partners.
It’s all great, except for one thing: there’s a push to make it happen as part of the upcoming season.
As part of the CBA, the owners are to inform the players (who have agreed to the additional Wild Cards) by March 1 whether the additional playoff games will be included in the upcoming season, or wait until 2013.
The owners should adhere to that old adage, haste makes waste.
Owners are now sequestered in Phoenix at their quarterly owners meetings, and the big topic on the agenda really is about whether they take the money now, or wait a year.
If you know sports, you’re likely chuckling at the moment. After all, when have owners not taken the money? But, it’s not as simple as just saying, “Let’s go for it.”
For one, the 2012 schedule has already been released, the Astros are not scheduled to move into the AL until 2013, and that means the schedule is (still) unbalanced. To add, Opening Day has now April 4, extra time off has been added around the All-Star Game, and the regular season now ends on Oct. 3 to ensure that even if the World Series went seven games, the 2012 season ends no later than Nov 1.
Into this mix is the possibility of having to squeeze in the two additional Wild Card games. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, unless, of course, there are ties at the end of the regular season.
The unknown at this point is whether regular season play-in games would occur on top of the additional Wild Cards, or if some formula is used to determine tie-breakers for the regular season instead of playing the games. Going back to “owners like money” it seems they’ll want to have their cake and eat it too, meaning the regular season play-in games for ties would continue, as well.
It all too much for this coming season.
If the owners are smart, they’ll pass and wait. It’s tough, I know. They’re thinking about how the extra green all owners, not just those that make the added Wild Cards, will get when they go to ESPN, TBS, and FOX for the broadcast rights to air those two new playoff games.
But next year makes more sense. You get the Astros into the AL and therefore, the schedule is balanced. You give Katy Feeney and those working the schedule time to work in the added Wild Cards without having to cram it into the schedule this year.
It all makes sense to wait, except for that damned money. Don’t be surprised if (once again) the fast money is lunged at instead of common sense ruling the roost. Here’s hoping that’s not the case.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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