Monday, March 5, 2012

A Defense of the New MLB Playoff Structure

(The following viewpoints express those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire Heckling Santa editorial board)


Is it really a new structure, though, when only one additional game is created? Technically, no, but the advantages it affords division winners is palpable.

I understand the points made by Mr. Haas--not to mention the rest of the majority clamoring for a return to the old system--but in reality, this modification does nothing to put the playoff chase in any real peril.

By adding a fifth playoff team in each league--which, mind you, still means that MLB's playoffs are more exclusive than those in the NFL, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, PGA Tour, Olympic Hockey and even The Voice--baseball is not detracting from the enjoyment of late-season races. Conversely, it is designed as a reward for teams good enough to win their division over the course of 162 games.

What was the most lamentable aspect of the previous playoff structure? Easy: division winners weren't rewarded for winning their division, and the more games you won the better chance you had of facing the Wild Card team, who was usually cloaked in the "getting hot at the right time" cliche and, thus, a formidable opponent for even the winningest of all Phillies squads.

Under the new format, division winners will have advantages both tangible (extra rest and more time to set up a desirable pitching rotation ) and intangible (extra rest and more time to set up a desirable pitching rotation), all the while forcing the not as good over the course of the season Wild Card teams to further tax their pitching staff in hopes of playing their way into the playoffs.

This, I say, is brilliant! If you're not as good as another team over the course of 162 games, you should be put at a fundamental disadvantage--no, not just having to open on the road--against a team that was good enough.

Would this new system deprive us of a night similar to that of last year, when the Braves, Cardinals, Rays and Red Sox were all fighting for playoff spots? NO! It wouldn't, and that's the misconception. If either of the league battles had ended in a tie under the new system, we would have had compelling baseball that night AND the next, what with the Wild Card candidates battling it out in a one-and-done format that seems to work, well, everywhere it's used.

Basically, this new system rewards division winners more than they had previously been rewarded while still setting the stage for some high postseason drama. And even if the Wild Card "playoff" game is devoid of said drama, well, when Doc, Cliff and Cole get an extra few days of rest and Chris Carpenter and Jair Jurrjens have to pitch with their season on the line, just remember: I told you so...

Tangentially, I'll take a moment to point out how inane it was for MLB to decide that the Wild Card teams will get to play Games 1 and 2 at home this year, but since they've already announced a return to the old 2-2-1 format for 2013 and beyond I'll just suck it up and say that I hope it doesn't adversely affect the Phillies this year.

Stay tuned for a special edition of On the Jon tomorrow, as I will be going to the Marlins-University of Miami exhibition game at the new stadium. Can't wait to take an actual shit in the facility and cap off the night with a journalistic shit on the entire state of that franchise and the amount of taxpayer dollars--MY DOLLARS!--that were poured into what's supposed to be the hottest thing to hit Cuba since Vida Guerra (Google her since I'm too lazy to find a pic).


  1. I understand your points, but you're wrong about a couple of things. The first is that while division winners may be rewarded for achieving a better record during the regular season, the first-place wild card team is actually being de-rewarded (or whatever the appropriate word would be) compared to the old system. Again, what if the Phillies finished the season leading the wild card by five or six games, and then the second-place wild card team won some arbitrary play-in game and the Phillies (for all intents and purposes besides semantics) missed the playoffs?

    Also, we wouldn't have had compelling baseball on the regular season's final day last year, because we would have known for the last week that it was going to be Red Sox/Rays and Cardinals/Braves in the wild-card play-ins. Nobody's tuning in to find out who's getting home-field advantage. It's just the worst. You'll never convince me.

  2. A) The first place Wild Card team SHOULD be "de-rewarded," as their achievements, regardless of win total, are not as impressive as those of teams who actually won their division. Sure, it would suck if it happened to the Phillies, but who's to say that scenario is likelier to happen than, say, the Cardinals storming back to tie the Braves and having to mortgage their pitching staff to fully earn their reward?

    I do understand your points, and I think their valid, but I choose to see it as a reward system for division winners as opposed to a penalty for teams that couldn't win their division.

    B) To say that we wouldn't have had compelling baseball on the last day of the regular season because we knew it would be Cards-Braves and Sox-Rays in the play-in games is, in my opinion, a little shortsighted. After all, I happen to think that back-to-back play-in games would be QUITE compelling.

    And to think: all thse play-in games would be happening while the Phillies are resting their pitchers and, more importantly, the other teams aren't.

  3. Really, the wild card achievements aren't as impressive as the accomplishments of division winners, regardless of win total? So a team like the Red Sox or Rays, who routinely finish with more wins than the AL Central winners despite having to play the other AL East teams a ton of times, should be penalized? Maybe a better way to do it would be to pick either the first-place wild card team or the worst division winner, whoever won fewer games, and make them play the 5th place team.

    I'm not advocating for that, of course, because I agree that you should get something for winning your division. You should get home field advantage, and they do. Is "division winners will get to rest their pitchers an extra day" a compelling enough reason to change the playoff structure? No, it's not.