Does baseball really need more postseason?

Does baseball really need more postseason?
October 24, 2011, 1:25 pm
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If you haven't been watching baseball over the last three weeks, what's wrong with you? You've been missing out on one of the most compelling postseasons this sport has experienced in quite a while.

After some fantastic showdowns in both the Division Series and League Championship Series, I was worried the World Series would be a letdown. Turns out I had nothing to fear, because this Fall Classic has been ... well, a real classic so far.

Thanks to Derek Holland's brilliant pitching performance last night, the Rangers knotted the series back up at two games a piece, ensuring this will go at least six games and setting up the distinct possibility of the first seven-game World Series since the Angels and Giants did it in 2002.

Seriously, if you've ignored this series (for whatever reason) it's time to join the fun. You'll be glad you did.

That said, I will admit that following baseball this month has been an exhausting experience. There have been a whole lot of games and a whole lot of late nights, and I can certainly understand how anyone might feel fatigued by it all at this point.

Which makes me wonder why exactly Major League Baseball is so intent on adding yet another round to the postseason in the coming years.

If you haven't been following this storyline, Bud Selig (with the support of his "special committee for on-field matters") is pushing hard to add another wild-card to each league. It's probably too late for the change to be made in time for the 2012 season, but 2013 certainly looks like it's in play.

How would it work? Well, that's still to be determined, but the most likely scenario would have the two wild cards from each league facing each other in a preliminary round, with the three division winners earning a bye into the Division Series. But in order to keep those division champs from sitting around with nothing to do for a week -- not to mention keeping the World Series from stretching into November -- that preliminary round would be decided either in a best-of-three series or even in a one-game playoff.

Now, I'm as big a fan of one-game playoffs as you'll find. Nothing can match the intensity and drama of a do-or-die ballgame, and I love that baseball uses that showdown when teams end the regular season tied. But I think I've got a problem with one game deciding which of two actual playoff clubs gets to advance, especially when you consider this format would prevent one playoff team from each league getting the opportunity to host a game.

On the other hand, I do like the notion of giving the three division champs a bit of a bonus over the wild cards, though I also worry that having 10 of 30 major-league teams advance to the postseason would potentially destroy the kind of thrilling September pennant race we experienced this year. Instead of that incredible Wednesday night of drama in four different cities, all of the contending clubs would have already clinched their spots in the postseason.

There's another major change that is likely to be instituted along with the playoff expansion: The relocation of one NL franchise (most likely the Houston Astros) to the AL to ensure both leagues have the same number of teams. The domino effect of that move, though, will be the need for at least one interleague game to played every day of the season (because both leagues would have 15 teams, an odd number).

Do we really want to see an interleague matchup on Opening Day? Or worse, during the final series of the year?

Back to the expanded postseason plan. If you're a Nationals fan, you may find yourselves supporting this change, because it would give your team a better chance of making the playoffs. For the first time in baseball history, a third-place team could advance to the postseason.

The question is: Do you want that? Do you want the Nationals to reach the postseason for the first time by finishing third in the NL East with, say, 88 wins? And how would you then feel if the entire postseason experience consisted of a one-game playoff in Atlanta, preventing you from being able to attend a playoff game in the District (unless, of course, they advanced)?

Whether you like it or not, all signs point to this change being enacted in time for the 2013 season. Which means that in all likelihood, those of us who love postseason baseball are going to have to prepare ourselves for even more late nights and even more potential for fatigue before the World Series ever begins.

Guess I better start stocking up on caffeine now.