Baseball changes

Wondering if any of my baseball-fan readers want to discuss the changes announced in MLB–Astros moving to the AL, inter-league play almost every day. Probably a one-game playoff between two wild card teams in each league.

(The latter idea is one I have argued against–just click on “The Ballyard” above and scroll down a bit.)

7 thoughts on “Baseball changes

  1. I don’t like more playoffs, but at least it is only one game. All the inter-league emphasis, though, makes me wonder whether an all-DH rule will be floated before long.

  2. The changes are pretty awful, though given what we are seeing in the NBA we should be happy that major league baseball has a labor agreement at all, even if it has some bad but minor change to the schedule and the playoffs.

    Anyway, here are some of the more annoying features:

    1. They keep trying to stuff more games into the season while forgetting that there are only so many games you can play in a weather-affected sport in outdoor games North America without risk of injury. At least the NFL owners were shot down when they tried to add two regular season games. There are so many games you can play between April and October. If you add more games to the playoffs at this point, you have to start reducing the number of games in the regular season, for weather/ injury reasons alone but also because a team that wins more games in a long regular season is probably the best team that year and its somewhat artificial to then provide for it to get bumped in a short playoff series (if the Phillies and the Yankees had been willing to play a series of exhibition games in October, it probably would have drawn more interest than the actual Cardinals – Rangers World Series). Maybe they should start by reducing the number of regular season games to 154.

    2. Add more playoff games and you reduce interest in the World Series, something that people as far back as the 1920s knew (it was the reason Kennesaw Landis blocked schemes for additional playoffs) and is bourne out by the decreasing World Series ratings.

    3. The MLB moved the Brewers from the American League to the National League, then twelve years later moved the Astros from the National League to the American League. The official justification was first, that it was more important that each league had an even number of teams than that each league had the same number of teams, then twelve years later the reverse. The actual reason seems to be some sort of unknown personal agenda by the commissioner, whose family owns the Brewers. Its not a huge deal, but its nonsensical and raises questions about their other moves.

    4. Again on the playoffs, both leagues went for 60 years with 1/8 of their teams making the playoffs, and then this proportion fell to 1/12 of their teams. With divisional play, the proportion increased to 1/6 or 1/7 of the teams, and with three divisions and the wildcard it was boosted to 1/4 of the teams. Now the percentage of teams making the playoffs is raised to 1/3 of the teams. So when instituting a playoff system, you have to start with which percentage of teams making the playoffs feels right. Decrease it and you have more of a chance of the playoffs being filled with the best teams in the league, increase it well you basically get more games and more revenue. We will probably see the percentage of teams in the playoffs get to NHL levels but as I fan I would prefer 1/6 or 1/7.

    These are fairly minor changes but we have seen in other sports that an extended period of bad management can turn a well regarded sport into a joke.

  3. I don’t think you should have 10 teams out of 30 making the playoffs each year, I would be happier with 6, but as an intellectual exercise if you hired me to create a playoff system where 10 teams out of 30 made the playoffs and paid me enough, this is how I would do it:

    1. Each league would be organized into five divisions of three teams each.

    2. The regular season would be reduced to 144 intra-league games, on top of which you can add any number of inter-league games you want (not a fan, and I think the number of regular season games should be reduced, but this is a separate argument). Of these 72 would be intradivisional games, ie each team would play 36 (!) games with the other two teams in its division and 6 game with each of the 12 other teams in its leagues.

    3. Only the 72 intradivisonal games would count for a team winning its division.

    4. The five teams that make the playoffs would be the team with the best record for all regular season games in the league, period, plus the four of the five (other) division winners that have the best record in all regular season games among the five division winners (most of the time, though not always, the team with the best record in the league will have won its division). In addition, a team with a losing record in all regular season games will not make the playoffs, and if such a team won its division it would be barred from the playoffs and be replaced with the team with the best record in all regular season games who otherwise would not have qualified.

    5. The five teams in each league that made the playoffs would be seeded according to their records in all regular season games.

    6. The first round of the playoffs would consist with each of the five playoff teams in each league playing three games each against each of the other four playoff teams. The games would be played at the home stadium of the higher seeded team.

    7. The two teams with the best record in the first round would play a seven game league championship series, structured 2-3-2 to the advantage of the team with the better first round of playoff record.

    8. Then the World Series would be as current.

    This is a complicated system that owes more to soccer than baseball. I don’t like it, but its a better way than MLB has come up with to generate more fan interest and get better teams into the World Series while ensuring ten teams make the playoffs each year.

    The three team divisions and the extremely unbalanced schedules would generate some pretty intense rivalries, but the requirement that the team with the best record in the league overall always gets into the playoffs, as well as the requirement that a team needs a winning record in the league overall to get into the playoffs, prevents a mediocre team from making the playoffs just be being able to beat up its two rivals. I think a playoff system that wound up excluding a team with the best league record overall would lose credibility, same with one where teams with losing records overall qualified.

    There have been proposals to do away with divisions, but small divisions are good because people care more about games against a team in the same city or a neighboring city than one clear across the country. Its human nature, but professional sport has to appeal to these types or rivalries (I’m thinking of the rivalries between the four big football clubs in Rio, or for that matter the three MLB teams in New York before 1954, for for that matter Yankees-Red Sox and Cardinals-Cubs).

    Finally, once you get enough teams into the playoffs, a first round round robin type of tournament should be used instead of a one on one elimination tournament, simply because fans will see a wider variety of matchups and you don’t want too many “Cinderalla stories” promoted by the one on one elimination tournaments, you actually want to see at least some of the stronger teams in the final rounds.

  4. At least it’s not the NHL, a league with a nearly 10 week long post-season. By the time the Stanley Cup is hoisted in mid-June, the ice is long out, the sun is up in the evenings and the audience has plummeted for it.

  5. I’m really attracted to the idea of using playoffs for Presidential Primaries.

    The Republican Primaries would be quite interesting.

    I mean, for the Presidential Elections, we have 51 contests.

    What I propose is the same thing.

    Have all 8 candidates be paired with another candidate. This would be done by drawing, which means that any given candidate would face any one of the other candidates in 6 or 7 states.

  6. The reason why the NHL and NBA finals are in the first two weeks of June is because the TV networks (NBC and ABC respectively) do not want to broadcast sports in prime time during the sweeps month of May. Sweeps months are used to calibrate what local TV stations can bill advertisers each quarter. Usually you will see lots of specials and local news reports on rancid restaurant food during sweeps months. Usually the NBA and NHL finals have modest ratings outside the cities that are participating in the said finals.

  7. Same goes for why the World Series has not gone into November. November is also a sweeps month. I don’t expect the MLB playoffs to expand much beyond where they are now.

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