While it is not a given by any stretch, the chances of expanded playoffs in Major League Baseball for 2012 are improving, according to sources. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, a decision, done in concert with the MLBPA, has to occur by March 1, or just two days from now.
Bud Selig has been pushing for the added playoff teams in 2012, as opposed to waiting till next season, for some time. The difficulty is squeezing them in after the 2012 schedule has already been set. The format would see two teams in each league play a one game sudden death play-in that day after the regular season ended. The winners of those games would then advance to the Division Series in their respective leagues.
While adding one extra night of games this year may not sound like much, it’s creating major headaches for the league’s schedulers. As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com notes, the issue is trying to cram the new games, the Division Series, the League Championship, potential regular season tie-breakers, and weather postponements all into a three week window from Oct 3 to the start of the World Series on Oct. 24. That won’t be an issue in 2013 when schedulers will have more flexibility to work with, rather than a schedule already finalized.
Still, what seemed nearly impossible earlier this year is gaining traction. The pace of meetings have picked up, and with it, there is a sense that the schedule can be addressed.
As to why the heavy push, Selig has not said. But, it’s worth noting that MLB’s national television contracts are up for renewal at the end of 2013. With (most) fans loving the aspect of sudden death in the playoffs, putting the new teams in this year, as opposed to next, could mean a ratings and viewership win for baseball, especially if large market, storied brands make the cut (for example, the Red Sox and Braves would have made it last year, if the format had been in place).
Expect word any day on this major change for baseball.
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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