Skip to comments.Wrong Expansion for Baseball
Posted on 10/27/2010 3:53:31 PM PDT by BluesDuke
"We try every way we can do to kill this game," Sparky Anderson once intoned, "but for some reason nothing nobody does never hurts it." The master of the double negative may have to change his opinion sooner than you think.
Baseball has been hurt enough since Anderson uncorked that ungrammatical but sage observation---by actual or alleged performance enhancing substances, by its government's continuing demurral on full-fledged replay where championships are concerned, by its inability to convince youthful African-Americans today that the sport Jackie Robinson and company integrated so magnificently in the first place is still a sport of relevance, aspiration, and respect to them.
But the Major League Baseball Players Association, a union which is very, very good when it's good---and very, very bad when it's bad---threatens to succumb to one of the least attractive among those thoughts which have crept periodically from commissioner Bud Selig's mind. "There is sentiment among a substantial segment of players," says Michael Weiner, the still-seasoning new executive director of the MLBPA, approaching the first World Series to be played during his leadership, "to consider expanding the playoffs."
Selig a month earlier spoke on the subject. "We have less teams than any other sport," he purred. "We certainly haven't abused anything."
That's what you think, Commissioner. And that's what the players' union threatens to be thinking.
The National Football League invites a little more than a third of its teams into its postseason. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League invite a little more than half its teams into their postseasons. The thinking now, if you can call it that, is that baseball could expand the division series---an innovation of dubious merit to begin with, more often than not---to a best-of-seven, following the path of the League Championship Series which expanded from best-of-five to best-of-seven in 1985.
"There are some players who have expressed an interest in that, as well," Weiner says. "Obviously, you've got to look at everything together. But I think we can have a very healthy discussion with the commissioner's office when bargaining begins [in January] about these issues."
How about a very healthy discussion with people whose interest in baseball amounts to the common good not necessarily being the same thing as making money for the owners and/or the players, which seems to be the animating drive behind the subject Weiner revisits?
And, while we're at it, let's remember that one thought toward accommodating an expanded postseason involves a regular-season shortening. Good luck getting the owners on board with that. Not to mention some players. Adding wild card teams (one possible option) or expanding the postseason series (another option) would indeed impact upon them, if you take the word of Jeremy Affeldt, relief pitcher, San Francisco Giants. (As in, the pennant-winning San Francisco Giants.)
To expand the postseason, Affeldt says, you would need indeed to shorten the regular season. "That's a lot of games and that's a long time," he continues. "Even in the playoffs now we're going potentially to November 5. Sometimes they think we're just robots, but you've got to think of potential injuries. On pitchers, that's a lot of throwing. Position players, some play every game all year. It just takes a toll on the body. If they're going to do that, they've got to think a lot about the ramifications."
Some thoughts have had it that baseball government could return the regular season to the 154 games each league played per season until 1961, when the American League expanded for the first time. (One of those expansion franchises is about to engage the Giants in the World Series.) Others ponder what sort of mischief might be inspired by that recession, considering what was provoked almost unwittingly by the original schedule expansion: Ford Frick's execrable attempt to dilute and demean what proved to be Roger Maris's breaking of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.
(Frick's ignorance: Ruth himself, for whom Frick once made his way as a ghost writer, first broke the single season home run record by passing a man who played a 112-game season. You can look it up. Frick's hypocrisy: After he proclaimed any record broken after 154 games would be marked as a separate and perhaps unequal record, Sandy Koufax smashed the National League single-season strikeout record in 1961, formerly held by Christy Mathewson, and nobody---including Frick, who said nothing known on the matter---thought it worthy of dilution, demeaning, or detachment.)
Other thoughts (mine, though I'm sure I'm not alone) have it that baseball government could keep the 162-game season but make a few other adjustments. Adjustments such as eliminating the wild card. Such as allowing the division winner with the regular season's best record sit out round one while the other two division winners play a best-of-three. Such as the winner of that quick round meeting the aforesaid best-record division winner in a best-of-five League Championship Series. Such as thus restoring the World Series to its proper primacy.
This would require baseball government and baseball governed alike to adjust their thinking toward defining proper championship, or restoring its meaning. Toward pondering just how the television ratings might in fact improve if viewers thought they were watching a genuine championship contest. There is something amiss when a National Football League contest between two execrable teams outrates an eagerly-anticipated showdown between Cliff Lee and the Empire Emeritus in the American League Championship Series.
(While we're at it, pondering, too, how to convince television government that there is far more to baseball than the Yankees and the Red Sox---and I write as a Red Sox fan, mind you---while convincing baseball government its longtime habit of public self-denigration has gained it nothing while allowing sports of lesser athletic or aesthetic appeal to subsume its position.)
Look at the combatants about to commence the World Series. One of them hasn't won a World Series in three tries since somewhere between the Army-McCarthy hearings and Joseph McCarthy's censure by the Senate. The other hasn't even gotten to a World Series since its birth as a franchise in 1961. When it was born in Washington, a city whose baseball legacy included long eras of futility, a couple of scattered pennants, one World Series championship in which the deciding game was won by a Hall of Fame starting pitcher (Walter Johnson) in relief, and one only half-exaggerated image: Washington---First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.
Today's World Series combatants are cobblings from assorted and sundry home developments, and assorted and sundry other castoffs, misfits, underratings, and geriatrics. They also boast some of the most attractively talented pitching in this year's game, including but not necessarily limited to Game One's scheduled opposing marksmen, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum.
These Rangers---they mean, at long enough last, that all four original expansion franchises have reached the World Series at least---are relentless, mostly modest, and preponderantly enthusiastic for the battle. And they're a far cry from the team whose now-former owner thought the key to solving its once-chronic pitching trouble, in which the staff suffered a ferocious case of run hemophilia, was to spend $250 million on . . . a shortstop. (A shortstop, by the way, who grew up to play third base for the Yankees and look at strike three for game, set, and Ranger pennant.)
These Giants---a far cry from the last Giants World Series competitor, the 2002 crew whose domineering figure was a misanthrope with outsize talent and thrice that size a sense of privilege and entitlement whose very presence turned the clubhouse into a zone of not-so-dynamic tension---are relentless, motley, and revel in their layabout character(s) while playing baseball with the cheerful zing we used to find in sandlot kids or summer camp contests.
If you're interested in peculiar appeal, consider this: The Rangers' new principal owner could finish the World Series as the only man to win a ring as a pitcher (with the Miracle Mets) and as an owner. And one player (Bengie Molina, catcher) stands to win a World Series ring no matter who wins the showdown, since he played almost two-thirds of the season with the Giants before he was traded to the Rangers.
And baseball thinks the ways to solve baseball's image and primacy problems is to expand a postseason that teeters close enough to the brink of diluted meaning as it is. I won't object if you claim I had the first three words of the previous sentence wrong.
I like the wild card. Too many division races are over early. I wouldn’t mind adding a second wild card spot in each league. The wild card teams could play each other in a short series to advance.
There should be NO playoffs.
Football has a 16 game schedule. Sometimes the better team has the worse record.
Baseball has a 162 game schedule ... more than enough to figure out who is worthy to represent the league.
Oh and NO INTER-LEAGUE PLAY. That’s what made me stop watching.
You want to kill baseball for me? Introduce more instant replay.Sorry, but I'm with Whitey Herzog on this one: It's an absolute must for the postseason. Said Herzog, and he was dead right: This is for the championship---let's get it right.
Hey, it might make Americans watch more soccer.
I like the wild card. Too many division races are over early. I wouldnt mind adding a second wild card spot in each league. The wild card teams could play each other in a short series to advance.Remove the wild card and watch a few more races actually go right down to the wire. (I could name you a good number of wild card winners over the past decade who probably would have dropped the hammer even further and ground out those two or three wins they were shy of getting for division titles, and it would only begin with the 2004 Red Sox.) Baseball's championship is diluted enough without making it resemble that of the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League even further.
Come to think of it, I'd also like to see this nonsense about the All-Star Game winning league getting to open the World Series. I liked it way better when each league's representative opened the Serious every other year. It wasn't broken. But baseball's current government, as always it has since it seized power in the early 1990s, seems still to believe that if it isn't broken, call the repairman, while if it is broken, let it ride.
I'm okay with division play and League Championship Series. Have been since it was introduced in 1969. But eliminate the wild card, let the best-record division winner sit a bye while the other two winners play best-of-three, then return the LCS in each league to a best of five. Then sit back and enjoy the thrills.
Hey, it might make Americans watch more soccer.Americans are already watching one sport in which men run around in their underwear. It's called basketball . . . ;)
Have not watched baseball for probally 8-9 years now. Too much money for too little ability and its just plain boring nowadays...
“You want to kill baseball for me? Introduce more instant replay. “
Agreed, baseball is too slow now,awfully slow.
The NL & AL should have the same number of teams. Move the Brewers back to the AL. It’s ludicrous that the AL West has only 4 teams, and NL Central has 6.
I could compromise on that provided we go to a 154 game season so that the most important baseball isn’t played on frost.
I have a more radical solution meant to address modern free-agency and baseball economics, but it takes a while to explain.
Eliminate interleague play.
Make 4 divisions of 4 (2 expansions added) 8 winners across 2 leagues
6a and 6b and 8a and 8b (no expansion)
2nd place in a plays first place in b
First places get 5 of 7 home games 2 - 2 -3
To compensate for weak division status, League finals
home team advantage should be based on head to head meetings.
All games will mean something, even if it may not appear to be at the time it was played.
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