New playoff format misses the mark


I’m not a fan of the new playoff format that features a second wildcard team and a one-game elimination round. It is nothing more than a money-grab contrived by Commissioner Selig and the owners and is in no way in “the best interest of the game.” Last night’s TV ratings were good, suggesting the “win or go home” aspect is popular with a considerable percentage of fans. But baseball purists (and the Texas Rangers) know better.

Atlanta Braves littered the field with bottles and debris following a controversial call in last night’s wildcard game (Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)

The fact is, the new format is a dangerous first step down a path that could turn MLB into the NBA or NHL. Those sports typically send a couple of .500 teams to the playoffs each year. Baseball doesn’t do that, and that’s one of the things that makes the national pastime so great. Even though the NBA and NHL let just about any team in the playoffs, at least they play a multi-game series- even in the first round.

Why would MLB, the only sport that schedules it’s entire season in a multi-game series format, play a winner-take-all playoff game? Oh, I already answered that- for the money!

In addition to further lining the pockets of Selig and his Old Boy’s Club last night’s widlcard games accomplished a couple more things. The two teams that would not have made the playoffs under the old rules advanced, bringing an abrupt end to the seasons of the two teams that had performed better over the grueling 162-game season. In addition, the finality of it all made a controversial call in the Braves-Cardinals game that much bigger.

It has been said many times in sports that even the worst team can beat a good team at any time. So why would a sport that’s built around the series use a single-elimination game to do anything other than break a tie? Oh yea, cha-ching! If this is the course MLB wants to take- why bother with the regular season at all?

As for the controversial call, yes it was magnified due to the situation, but I don’t think it was as terrible as some have made it out to be. The real travesty was the way Braves fans handled themselves. What an embarrassment to the city of Atlanta.

The call itself is a judgement call and I don’t disagree that the infielder had positioned himself to be able to easily record the out. I do, however, think the umpiring crew did a poor job of executing the call. An infield fly is supposed to be called when the ball is at the peak of its arc of flight. Leftfield umpire Sam Holbrook failed to make the call in a timely manner, waiting until the ball was already deep into its descent. Besides, shouldn’t an infield fly be called by an infield umpire? I blame it on miscommunication. I think the fact that there were more umpires on the field than there would’ve been in a regular season game had something to do with it.

Anyway, Braves and Rangers fans can thank Bud Selig and the MLB owners for screwing up their seasons. Unfortunately, nothing will change. Get used to it. The playoff rules were amended to accommodate an extra team even though the final day of the 2011 season was the most dramatic and exciting ever. Most people like to follow the rule of “if it aint broke- don’t fix it.” Apparently Selig prefers a motto of “what doesn’t kill the league makes me richer.” Careful Mr. Commissioner, you are playing with fire.