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I have made no secret of my opinion that the addition of an additional Wild Card in each league, bringing the total number of playoff teams to 10, is a good thing for Major League Baseball. It makes the late season more exciting and interesting for a number of fan bases whose team otherwise could have been long out of the race, and it makes the Division races exponentially more important. I’m not crazy about the whole one-game playoff part of it, but I’ll take it if that’s all I can get (I’d prefer at least a three-game series, and preferably five).

So, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that I’m hoping the new playoff system is implemented as quickly as possible. The new CBA afforded baseball the opportunity to install the additional Wild Cards for 2012, but only if the owners and players could agree on how to do it by March 1. That seems a ways off still, but the schedule has to be approved before that, and it is the schedule that will dictate whether the additional Wild Cards are even possible this year.

And, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, despite Bud Selig’s confident statements about the additional Wild Cards this year, scheduling concerns are posing a significant obstacle to getting it done. From Stark:

Here are the major complications:

• The regular season is scheduled to end on a Wednesday (Oct.3), and the World Series will start exactly 21 days later, on Oct. 24. It isn’t feasible at this point to change either of those dates.

• The Division Series are now tentatively scheduled to begin on Saturday, Oct. 6. So the schedule-makers have to figure out a way to jam two one-game wild-card showdowns, plus potential tiebreaker games and/or rainout makeup games, into the two days in between.

Keep in mind that it’s now far more likely that there would need to be at least one tiebreaker game under this system. Because the difference between finishing first and being a wild-card team will now be so great, the two sides have agreed that it isn’t fair to break those ties any way other than on the field.

• Sources say there have been extensive discussions about eliminating a travel day during the Division Series to create more room for the wild-card round. But in return, the union has told management it would want concessions on start times for games that would be played on back-to-back days in different time zones.

That could mean, for instance, that the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox wouldn’t be able to play in prime time on the East Coast two games in a row — a potential development that would likely result in strenuous objections from management and baseball’s TV partners.

• Start times for the final day of the regular season could also be affected. If it’s decided that one or both wild-card games would be scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 4 (the day after the season ends), the union would prefer to have Wednesday games involving the affected teams moved to the afternoon, sources said.

Stark concludes that the sides are still trying very hard to make it work, and ultimately, things may work out with a few sacrifices. But it’s possible that we’ll have to wait until 2013.

For the most part, the issues will not again present themselves in 2013 because the schedule will be created with the additional Wild Cards in mind (and the schedule is going to be very different, what with the Astros moving to the AL, necessitating year-long interleague play).

(By the way, in case you were wondering how the second Wild Card would have impacted your rooting last year: had it been in place for 2011, on August 1, instead of being 16.5 games out of the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs would have been a mere 16 games out of the second Wild Card! I know, I know. It’s negligible. But keep in mind, the Cubs were, at that time, the third worst team in all of baseball. To other NL teams, the addition would have made a huge difference – the second Wild Card at that time was three games behind the first Wild Card.)

  • SouthernCub

    I have an idea, cut the regular season to 150 games, get rid of inter-league play and the unbalanced schedule. There’s NO reason to play the cardinals 18 times a yr and the Nationals 6. While we’re at it just get rid of divisions altogether, just have AL and NL w/ equal number of teams in each.

    • Mick

      Cutting games will never happen because of tradition, stats, and most importantly the money.

      I hate that that the regular season doesn’t end until October 3rd, that seems ridiculous. MLB should start their season the last couple weeks in March, start incorporating day-night double headers in major markets scheduled the last day of the series (the day before the travel day). That way we can keep all of the games, end the season in September, and add an extra wild-card game. Also, why does MLB open in Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago, NY, Boston, or any other cold weather city? Why aren’t the first 3 weeks of the season played in domes or south of St. Louis? I understand that cities are excited to see their teams but is sitting in 45 degree rainy weather worth it? C’mon man!

      • hardtop

        Not tradition. baseball has been played professionally in this country since the centennial: relatively speaking, a 162 schedule is a new development. Prior to 1961 the schedule was 154 games. I’m not sure how long the 154 game schedule was around, but you can bet it has been changed a couple times. There is no good reason to not change it again.

        stats: its all relative to the competition. the steroid era has skewed the stats drastically anyway. keep in mind, hammerin’ hank and Ernie Banks both played a 3rd of their career in the pre-162-game era, Both have pretty decent stats. there are guys like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, etc. that still have their names all over the record books and top this-or-that lists, and they all played 154 or less games per year.
        I have spoken to a couple players about this topic specifically. It seems clear most ball players would trade a couple HR’s or a W to play 8 fewer games. Its a grind, physically and mentally. Unless you are an older guy going for the record books, i doubt there would be many complaints.

        revenue: cant argue with that one, the almighty dollar wins every time. too bad though, i really think the game looses something when its played in the snow or freezing slop of late October, for both the fans and players. if a few multimillionaires would give a c couple bucks, the game could be a lot better.

        • Mick

          I wouldn’t call a rule change 50 years ago “a new developement.” Like you said, it’s been since 1962 since MLB had less than 162 games in a season. This all comes down to the $, that’s why MLB is so interested in adding an additional wild-card and play-off game. In a perfect world, MLB would wrap up their regular season mid-September and the World Series mid-October (at the latest).

          • DocWimsey

            Given that the grandparents of a lot of MLB players do not remember the 154 game seasons, it is hard to call it “new.” Modern baseball has been around for a little over 100 years, and the 162 game schedule has been here for 40+% of that.

            And as for a few milliionaires being willing to part with c bucks: dream on! Think Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil here…..

          • hardtop

            i wrote “relatively speaking” when citing the schedule as “new”. but I guess you are right that even relative to professional baseball history its not really all that new. either way, tradition means little or nothing when it comes to schedule… its all about the money.

      • DocWimsey

        I seem to recall that baseball tried opening in warm-weather cities a couple of times a while ago: it might even have been the 1970′s. However, it did not go over well, or at least it was perceived as having not gone over well. This might have been because the most “rabid” fanbases are in cooler climes, and were back then, too.

        Still, I do shake me head when I see the Dodgers and Padres playing each other on opening day…..

        • Mick

          As a Minneapolis resident, and now with our beautiful outdoor stadium, I can speak for everyone that we’d rather have fewer games in April if it meant we could get additional games in July.

          P.S. The Cubs play here (Mpls) June 8th, 9th, and 10th which is a Friday-Sunday. I can’t wait although I might have rather seen them come to town after the trade deadline when we’ve promoted our 2013 roster. Also, I’ll be wearing my Michael Cuddyer Colorado Rockies jersey shirt to avoid any fallout from wearing any of my Cubs or Twins gear.

  • Dane

    Why exactly does the Astros move to the AL necessitate year-long interleague play? I haven’t heard the reasoning behind this yet

    • Andrew

      Odd numbers of teams in both leagues with 2-, 3-, and 4-game series all year long necessitate that there always be two teams from opposite leagues playing each other during all sets of series on the schedule.

      Otherwise, you’d have teams taking multiple-days layoffs throughout the season, which would extend the season league-wide even longer than it already is.

      • Dane

        Thank you

  • JB88

    There is a ton of money at stake for all sides to add another “round” to the playoffs. I guess I would be shocked if they didn’t figure out a way to make this work.

    As an aside, I too wish it was a 3-game series. In my perfect world, the new playoffs would be a 3-game series, followed by a 5-game series, followed by two 7-game series. I know it would sort of stink to reduce the first round to 5 games, but unless they are going to start the season earlier, or eliminate games, I don’t know how you can feasibly expect to extend the playoff series while also hoping to finish the season by around 11/1.

  • njriv

    I don’t really like the 1 game playoff. Everything in baseball is played in a series, so why have a one game playoff for the wild card? Plus I think the DS series should be 7 games also besides last year there are too many sweeps in that round.

  • die hard

    additional championship rounds make sense only if season reduced to 144 games and regular season ends on Sept 1 with Sunday double headers brought back to make Sundays more family friendly without beer sales in the stands on Sundays and second game half price on Sundays for families with one or more children….start a new fan base for generations to come and lessen burden on players

  • Eric S

    Why is everyone so huffy about more inter-league games? I’m not a fan of them either, but in every other sport non-divisional games are the norm. In football the Bears play AFC teams a few times a year, in basketball the Bulls and Blackhawks play teams from both the Western and the Eastern Conference. I don’t really see how this would be any different. This would just mean the Cubs will play teams like the Orioles, Royals, A’s, Yankees, Red Sox, etc even more. It SHOULD help even the schedule and create some diversity. The big teams will beat up the smaller markets, and we won’t have to play teams like the Cardinals almost all season. Again, not ideal, but I get it.

    • hardtop

      its different in other sports: they still play the same game, albeit in different leagues. in baseball, the core of the game and the rules are mostly the same but its played a very different way between leagues. Teams are built around the different rules and the different styles of play. Personally, I hate watching AL ball and the reason I’m all huffy about it is because I have to watch my team playing that garbage game more than I have had to in the past. It doesn’t improve the game or fan experience in anyway.

  • Cubsin

    Here’s a simple, if somewhat unpalatable solution: play any and all tiebreaker games and wild-card games at neutral-site indoor stadiums (NL teams would play in AL stadiums, and vice versa). That’s tough for the fans of the contenders and would reduce ticket revenue, but it would insure that the games were played as scheduled. The only possible complication would be a tie for a division championship AND a tie for a wild card spot, with one or both involving more than two teams.

  • rbreeze

    Its all about the money.  I just don’t understand why they are doing this in the 11th hour before the season begins.  This should have been ironed out during the owners meetings or the winter meetings.

    But I agree they should bring back double headers to shorten the calendar a bit.  One game playoffs should only be for season ending tie breakers.   Wild card playoffs should be 3 gamers.

  • rocky8263

    To Cubsin, who would attend the games? A handful of locals?

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