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MLB Approves Expanded Playoffs For 2012, Still Lowest of Big-4 Sports PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 02 March 2012 16:07

Wildcard

It took an extra day, but as anticipated, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association today agreed to a 10-team format that includes two additional Wild Card Clubs and an elimination game in each League prior to the Division Series for the 2012 season, as opposed to waiting till next year. The format will see a second Wild Card would be awarded in both the American League and the National League; and that a single Postseason game would be played between each League’s two Wild Card Clubs, with each winner advancing to compete among the three division champions from each League in the Division Series. If the format had been in place last year, the Rays would have played the Red Sox in the American League while the Cardinals would have played the Braves.

The change, which was endorsed by the Commissioner’s 14-member Special Committee for On-Field Matters, marks the first amendment to the Postseason since MLB adopted the six-division, eight-team Postseason structure in January of 1994.  The first Postseason to be played under that format occurred in 1995.

Implementing the format change did not come easy, and will have a wrinkle in it for 2012 that will change going forward, beginning in 2013.

The difficulty in having the extra games this season has been that the 2012 schedule is already finalized. The issue has been to try and squeeze in the new Wild Card games the day after the regular season ends, deal with any potential regular season tie-breaker games that would have to be played before then, the League Division Series, and the League Championship Series and account for time to allow rainouts, all into a three-week window from Oct 3 to the start of the World Series on Oct. 24. Those concerns by the players were addressed as part of the discussions.

An interesting twist will be for this season only, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds.  This one-year change will eliminate a travel day prior to a decisive Game Five of the Division Series and was necessary because the 2012 regular season schedule was announced before the agreement on the new Postseason was reached.  Next year, the Division Series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years.  The league and MLBPA said that, “Details on the scheduling of the new elimination games between each League’s Wild Cards will be announced in the near future.” That last time MLB saw the 2-3 format for the LDS was 1997.

“I greatly appreciate the MLBPA’s cooperation in putting the new Postseason format in place this year,” said Commissioner Selig in a joint statement. “The enthusiasm for the 10-team structure among our Clubs, fans and partners has been overwhelming. This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive Postseason in professional sports.”

Michael Weiner, the Executive Director of the MLBPA, added, “The players are eager to begin playing under this new format in 2012 and they look forward to moving to full realignment in 2013.  Our negotiating committee and the owners’ representatives worked hard to develop a schedule that should make for fairer competition and provide our fans with a very exciting season.”

Why the Urgency?

As to why there heavy push to implement the changes this year, as opposed to waiting till 2013 when the Astros move to the AL West and the schedule can be properly addressed, the feeling was, “Why wait?” The clubs pushed for it as it adds the extra potential to reach the postseason, which translates not only into added revenues for those 5 seeds in each league that now make the postseason, but the season ticket sales that accompany that in the following year of making the postseason. The clubs also felt that it made winning the division much more important now than in years prior. To add, MLB will see additional revenue when details of who will be broadcasting the new games is reached closer to the upcoming postseason, and could be parlayed into an even larger payday for the league when national broadcast deals begin being negotiated in early 2013. The current deals with FOX, ESPN, and TBS expire at the end of 2013.

RELATED: Expanded Playoffs in MLB Announced Friday, But Broadcast Deal Still Up in the Air

For those that think that MLB will be diluting the postseason with added teams, one needs to look at how many teams make the postseason in the other Big-4 sports. The added teams now means that one-third of MLB’s 30 clubs have a shot at the playoffs. That remains the lowest percentage of total teams when compared to the NFL, NBA, and NHL. The following shows the number of teams per league that make the playoffs each season, along with the percentage of the total.

League

Total Teams

# in Playoffs

% of total

NBA

30

16

53%

NHL

30

16

53%

NFL

32

12

38%

MLB

30

10

33%

Biz of Baseball Research


Maury BrownMaury 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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