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dabvu2498
08-15-2006, 08:24 AM
Playoffs gone wild: Division titlists penalized
Posted 8/15/2006 2:03 AM ET
In his perfect baseball world, Bud Selig would be invited to Capitol Hill to testify about the wonders of the wild card. No congressmen would press the commissioner about trivial matters involving chemically altered sluggers and their long-balling brand of consumer fraud.
Under oath, the politicians would ask Selig to explain how he injected the national pastime with a healthy dose of postseason hope.

The wild card has been a godsend for Selig, helping fill his stadiums at record levels and deflecting attention from the performance-enhancing plague. In the context of Selig's legacy, the wild card is in first place on the good side of his scorecard, with the World Baseball Classic claiming, well, the wild card.

Many fan bases that would have been cooked before their Fourth of July barbecues are now allowed to dream the impossible late-summer dream. This leads to bigger crowds, higher stakes and worthy September drama to counter the all-engulfing monstrosity that is the NFL.

But today's positively mad National League race for the ultimate consolation prize has thrown a spotlight on a flaw in the postseason system. Wild cards have it too easy in October. It's high time to punish them for spending a six-month season playing for second place.

Wild cards should get one home game in the five-game Division Series, and one only. Make it the first game so they don't feel unwashed and unwanted, then send them off to play a four-game series at the home of a team that actually won something during the regular season.

Otherwise, dominant teams such as this year's Mets will enjoy almost no advantage for winning, say, 17 more games than the first-round opponent. The Mets could clear 100 victories in a lousy league and end up sharing a five-night date with Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte, with two dates booked for Houston.

"I always thought the first round should be seven games," Mets GM Omar Minaya said.

Only Selig doesn't want his World Series winner parading under a snowstorm instead of a ticker-tape rain. The first round will stay at five, so other measures need to be taken to enhance the value of a division title while allowing runner-up markets to bask in wild-card possibilities.

Stripping a home playoff game from the best of the rest would be a fine place to start.

"We've talked a lot about that," Selig said Monday. "It's a suggestion some general managers have made. At the moment, I want to leave it as is, but in the offseason we'll look at it again."

Five wild cards have appeared in the last four World Series, with three taking the champagne bath. It's not hard to figure out why. Division leaders always have a fallback plan. But those strictly in the wild-card race are playing life-and-death games through the back end of September, making for dangerous postseason foes.

"You have the adrenaline flowing much more than the teams that clinched early," Minaya said. "You also feel like you're playing with house money, and that gives you confidence."

Wild cards also enter the postseason knowing baseball is governed by a simple rule: Regardless of site or seed, the team with the best pitcher is the team that wins. A visiting football team is more likely to be undone by a frozen playoff tundra, and a visiting basketball team is more likely to suffer the playoff consequences of an angry, suffocating crowd influencing an official's call.

So the lower baseball seed negotiates October on something of a level field. "But it's not like our wild card is some sort of poor relation that doesn't deserve to be there," Selig said.

Baseball allows eight of 30 teams (26.7%) into the playoffs; the NFL allows 12 of 32 (37.5%). The NHL allows an absurd 16 of 30 (53.3%), while the NBA lets in everyone but the Knicks.

So Selig was right when he established one wild card per league for the 1995 season; far too many teams were being eliminated far too soon. "And now the sport is having another amazing year," he said.

Selig predicted this year's attendance total would break last year's record of nearly 75 million, and, yes, the wild card has helped. But with everybody and their sub-.500 brothers scrambling to seize that backup NL bid, baseball should ensure that future 102-win seasons are worth the blood, sweat and tears. "We'll consider it," Selig said.

The commissioner should consider punishing those who settle for second best and letting the Division Series honor the division champ.

***

Ian O'Connor also writes for The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News


Find this article at:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/oconnor/2006-08-15-oconnor_x.htm

redsmetz
08-15-2006, 08:34 AM
Wild cards have it too easy in October. It's high time to punish them for spending a six-month season playing for second place.

With the exception of the East, the contenders for the Wild Card in the Central and the West are also playing for the Division title. I know we are.

Jpup
08-15-2006, 08:35 AM
I think the Wild Card was a good idea, with the current division alignment, but I would prefer having only 2 divisions in each league. I get sick of watching the Reds play the same teams over and over as well. I still can't understand how it makes sense to have 6 teams in the Central and 5 in the East and West. The AL is messed up as well with 5 teams in the East and Central and only 4 in the West.

dabvu2498
08-15-2006, 08:37 AM
With the exception of the East, the contenders for the Wild Card in the Central and the West are also playing for the Division title. I know we are.
And he's saying that if you end up in second place, with a wild card bid, you should have it tougher than the division winners.

terminator
08-15-2006, 08:43 AM
That's a tough one though as it can't just be done to favor the division champs. It seems like half the time the wild card team has a better record than one of the division champs. For instance, last year the Astros were ahead of the Padres and often the Red Sox/Yankees second place team is ahead of the AL Central/West winner.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 08:50 AM
That's a tough one though as it can't just be done to favor the division champs. It seems like half the time the wild card team has a better record than one of the division champs. For instance, last year the Astros were ahead of the Padres and often the Red Sox/Yankees second place team is ahead of the AL Central/West winner.
That's only because there are too many divisions.

I'd be in favor of breaking it down to 2 divisions per league, with no wild card. And if it's too unfair that the 2nd place finisher in one division has a better record than the first place finisher in the other division, well, then let's go back to 2 leagues, with NO divisions. And while we're at it, let's throw San Diego and Montreal out of the league (and Arizona and send Milwaukee back to the AL) and go back to 1968, with a 15 inch high mound.

I'm only slightly joking. And I realize that wild cards are here to stay- more teams involved in the pennant race that way.

But part of me pines for the good old days....sigh

paulrichjr
08-15-2006, 09:19 AM
That's only because there are too many divisions.

I'd be in favor of breaking it down to 2 divisions per league, with no wild card. And if it's too unfair that the 2nd place finisher in one division has a better record than the first place finisher in the other division, well, then let's go back to 2 leagues, with NO divisions. And while we're at it, let's throw San Diego and Montreal out of the league (and Arizona and send Milwaukee back to the AL) and go back to 1968, with a 15 inch high mound.

I'm only slightly joking. And I realize that wild cards are here to stay- more teams involved in the pennant race that way.

But part of me pines for the good old days....sigh


Was that the same days when the Yankees or Dodgers won every year? Fans in New York and LA or also pining for the good old day. Actually though I do wish we still had that Dodger rivalry from the 70s. It just seems that we don't have any enemies like that anymore.

goreds2
08-15-2006, 09:37 AM
I think there should be the same three divisions in each League.

No Wild Card.

The team with the best record gets a first round bye.

MLB or the TV networks would not agree with this ($).

registerthis
08-15-2006, 09:44 AM
I think there should be the same three divisions in each League.

No Wild Card.

Can't agree with this. The Wild Card has been, IMO, the best addition baseball has made in a long, long time. We can bicker about division alignments and whatnot, but the Wild Card has added an extra level of excitement for fans and provided the opportunity for some very deserving--and very good--teams to make the playoffs and, in two cases, win the World Series. In my opinion, the argument that wild card teams didn't have the merit to make it to the postseason evaporated when the Marlins won the Series in 1997.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 09:51 AM
Was that the same days when the Yankees or Dodgers won every year? Fans in New York and LA or also pining for the good old day. Actually though I do wish we still had that Dodger rivalry from the 70s. It just seems that we don't have any enemies like that anymore.
Actually the Yankees have done pretty well in the "new era."

Mostly I was referring to a more uncomplicated time, when the winner of the NL was, well, the National League champ, and went to the World Series.

It's not right that a team can win 108 regular season games, and then have to play a wild card team, with maybe 85 wins, in a short series wheere anything can happen, for the right to proceed to the next round. I think that team with the best record has earned the right, over a very long season, to NOT have to prove itself over and over again, until at least the NL championship, or even the WS.

dabvu2498
08-15-2006, 10:01 AM
This is a cool discussion right now, considering the Reds could be the "lucky" Wild Card team with 85 wins that gets to play in the playoffs.

paulrichjr
08-15-2006, 10:19 AM
Actually the Yankees have done pretty well in the "new era."

Mostly I was referring to a more uncomplicated time, when the winner of the NL was, well, the National League champ, and went to the World Series.

It's not right that a team can win 108 regular season games, and then have to play a wild card team, with maybe 85 wins, in a short series wheere anything can happen, for the right to proceed to the next round. I think that team with the best record has earned the right, over a very long season, to NOT have to prove itself over and over again, until at least the NL championship, or even the WS.

What if an American League team wins 85 and wins the AL but the NL team wins 108? That isn't fair either. Look I know what you are saying and part of me agrees with it. But I think baseball made a good decision by adding just one wildcard. Every sport has their top teams automatically get to go to playoffs while some second and even third or forth place can go in some sports. Would you like to change it so that just the top teams go to the NCAA tournament? I think we can all agree that it has been a huge success. If a team can win 108 games then they should also prove that they are the best by winning 11 more games.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 10:25 AM
Oh, I totally agree that baseball is not as watered down as the rest of the pro sports leagues.

And I know we're not going back to the way it was, either.

But casual fans of all sports seem to love the wild card idea, as it does create excitement (even if it's somewhat contrived?) toward the end of long, boring seasons. It's mostly the purists that object, and when it comes to baseball, I'm probably, well... a little bit of a snob.:rolleyes:

I understand your point about Al v. NL champs, and all I can say is ... well, that's the way it's always been!

dabvu2498
08-15-2006, 10:28 AM
Would you like to change it so that just the top teams go to the NCAA tournament? I think we can all agree that it has been a huge success.
Big difference... entrance to the NCAA tourney is subjective for quite a few teams.


Oh, I totally agree that baseball is not as watered down as the rest of the pro sports leagues.


Really???

IslandRed
08-15-2006, 10:32 AM
I think the Wild Card was a good idea, with the current division alignment, but I would prefer having only 2 divisions in each league. I get sick of watching the Reds play the same teams over and over as well. I still can't understand how it makes sense to have 6 teams in the Central and 5 in the East and West. The AL is messed up as well with 5 teams in the East and Central and only 4 in the West.

15 and 15, with five teams in each division, means interleague play every day.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 11:00 AM
Really???
Going by these stats from the article:

Baseball allows eight of 30 teams (26.7%) into the playoffs; the NFL allows 12 of 32 (37.5%). The NHL allows an absurd 16 of 30 (53.3%), while the NBA lets in everyone but the Knicks.

RedsManRick
08-15-2006, 11:05 AM
This is easy enough. Wild card team gets no home games in the first round. You reward the team with the best record and penalize the wild card team at the same time.

dabvu2498
08-15-2006, 11:07 AM
Going by these stats from the article:

Baseball allows eight of 30 teams (26.7%) into the playoffs; the NFL allows 12 of 32 (37.5%). The NHL allows an absurd 16 of 30 (53.3%), while the NBA lets in everyone but the Knicks.
Ah... I misunderstood the point you were trying to make.

SteelSD
08-15-2006, 11:12 AM
Personally, I think Minaya is right. The first round needs to be 7 games. That's a better equalizer regardless of who's playing whom.

However, I disagree with the main premise of the article. Division champs aren't necessarily better than the Wild Card teams. St. Louis, in 2001, and Houston, in 2005, both posted a better regular season record than at least one other division champ. Yet those teams are to be penalized for having the audacity to play better baseball than Division champs? Uh-uh.

Simply extending the first round with Home Field advantage would do a better job of evening things out.

SteelSD
08-15-2006, 11:16 AM
This is easy enough. Wild card team gets no home games in the first round. You reward the team with the best record and penalize the wild card team at the same time.

Here's the flaw...

In 2001, the Wild Card team (St. Louis) actually had a better record than their first round opponent (Arizona). Because of the way the system is set up (WC teams cannot play their own Division Champ round 1) there will be more matchups in which the team with the better record actually is the WC winner.

RedsManRick
08-15-2006, 11:24 AM
Point taken Steel -- I would get rid of that requirement. WC team plays the division winner with the best record, period. Though I also agree with a 7-7-7 format. I would take it a step further and play them as regular series', whoever has home field gets 4 games at home, followed by 3 on the road.

vaticanplum
08-15-2006, 11:35 AM
Because of the way the system is set up (WC teams cannot play their own Division Champ round 1)

Why is that a rule anyway? I've always kind of wondered that. Is it just because of the drama factor? When it does sometimes override the best record plays worst record rule, as you pointed out, it seems kind of silly.

ochre
08-15-2006, 11:35 AM
I like the wildcard way better than interleague play. Let's make it interesting. Since interleague play is pointless, let's make it so the team with the best interleague record from each league is the wildcard. That'll throw a wrench in it!

puca
08-15-2006, 11:47 AM
I agree with the idea of extending the first round to 7 games. Also reducing the number of off days would favor the deeper (and usually better regular season) teams.

5DOLLAR-BLEACHERBUM
08-15-2006, 12:00 PM
Can't agree with this. The Wild Card has been, IMO, the best addition baseball has made in a long, long time. We can bicker about division alignments and whatnot, but the Wild Card has added an extra level of excitement for fans and provided the opportunity for some very deserving--and very good--teams to make the playoffs and, in two cases, win the World Series. In my opinion, the argument that wild card teams didn't have the merit to make it to the postseason evaporated when the Marlins won the Series in 1997.
I agree totally, the wildcard also helps some of the teams that can't spend the money the large market teams can. If the Yankees have an injury( Sheffield, Matsui, ect) they just go out and buy someone else from the Phillies(Abreau). The small market teams have to deal with what they have for the most part, and cant replace important pieces mid season. So a small market team is in first place in July loses a starting pitcher and shortstop but is still good enough to hold on to the wild card and makes the playoffs. Seems fair to me, most of the time these teams that should get an advantage for winning the division already had their advantage before the season even started, a higher payroll.

terminator
08-15-2006, 12:04 PM
Why is that a rule anyway? I've always kind of wondered that. Is it just because of the drama factor? When it does sometimes override the best record plays worst record rule, as you pointed out, it seems kind of silly.
Well, we wouldn't want the Yankees and Red Sox playing in the first round, now would we?

If they could figure out a way to have the Yankees and Red Sox meet in the World Series, then the TV execs (and maybe baseball ones too) would be happy.

TeamBoone
08-15-2006, 02:59 PM
Can't agree with this. The Wild Card has been, IMO, the best addition baseball has made in a long, long time. We can bicker about division alignments and whatnot, but the Wild Card has added an extra level of excitement for fans and provided the opportunity for some very deserving--and very good--teams to make the playoffs and, in two cases, win the World Series. In my opinion, the argument that wild card teams didn't have the merit to make it to the postseason evaporated when the Marlins won the Series in 1997.

I agree with this.

Several teams are virtually not the same after the AS break (look at the Reds). By this I mean that they have different players due to trades, waivers, and DFAs. Thus, a team that gets off to a slow/bad start can virtually become golden later in the season. It's the nature of baseball. Should these teams that have made themselves better be penalized for doing so? They will be if the WC ceases to exist.

IMHO, they should either keep the WC or abolish/limit trades (or perhaps move the deadline up). If they get rid of the WC, lesser teams that don't do well in the first couple months and perhaps out of the division race (or close to being out) don't have as much incentive to make themselves better because there's no reason to.



I like the wildcard way better than interleague play. Let's make it interesting. Since interleague play is pointless, let's make it so the team with the best interleague record from each league is the wildcard. That'll throw a wrench in it!

I do too, but I do wish they'd cut down on the number of games played.

I'm not fond of your suggestion though. Because most of the interleague games are completed before the AS break, the WC would be decided way too early in the season, thus giving weaker/less payroll teams nothing to aspire to throughout the second half.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 03:05 PM
I agree with this.

Several teams are virtually not the same after the AS break (look at the Reds). By this I mean that they have different players due to trades, waivers, and DFAs. Thus, a team that gets off to a slow/bad start can virtually become golden later in the season. It's the nature of baseball. Should these teams that have made themselves better be penalized for doing so? They will be if the WC ceases to exist.

IMHO, they should either keep the WC or abolish/limit trades (or perhaps move the deadline up). If they get rid of the WC, lesser teams that don't do well in the first couple months and perhaps out of the division race (or close to being out) don't have as much incentive to make themselves better because there's no reason to.
OK, that's a great point; being an open-minded sort, I can see the logic of this. Just please don't add any more wild card teams!

puca
08-15-2006, 03:06 PM
Personally I hate the wild card, but I understand its purpose.

I would much rather see 2 divisions in each league with the top 2 teams from each divison making the playoffs. First round has the top team from the East playing 2nd place team from the West and vice versa.

Gizmo
08-15-2006, 03:08 PM
Personally I hate the wild card, but I understand its purpose.

I would much rather see 2 divisions in each league with the top 2 teams from each divison making the playoffs. First round has the top team from the East playing 2nd place team from the West and vice versa.


That's my ideal situation as well. I hate thinking we've got to be better than 5 other teams in the NL Central, while the AL West only has to be better than 3 others.

registerthis
08-15-2006, 03:11 PM
Personally I hate the wild card, but I understand its purpose.

I would much rather see 2 divisions in each league with the top 2 teams from each divison making the playoffs. First round has the top team from the East playing 2nd place team from the West and vice versa.

Ah, you want to go back to 1990, then?

Aside from the fact that it wouldn't be as much fun to be a fan, economically baseball simply cannot afford to have only 4 of 30 teams making the postseason every year.

Always Red
08-15-2006, 03:11 PM
Personally I hate the wild card, but I understand its purpose.

I would much rather see 2 divisions in each league with the top 2 teams from each divison making the playoffs. First round has the top team from the East playing 2nd place team from the West and vice versa.
or, just have 2 leagues with no divisions, play a balanced schedule, interleague play sparingly (with the interleague scheduling based on last years records), and take the top four teams from each league and seed them out based on record, with seed #1 in each league getting any and all of the advantages mentioned above.

Well, that's a lot of thought and ideas, but I don't think anything will change anytime soon.

registerthis
08-15-2006, 03:12 PM
That's my ideal situation as well. I hate thinking we've got to be better than 5 other teams in the NL Central, while the AL West only has to be better than 3 others.

Yeah, but we have Pittsburgh so it all evens out.

KalDanielsfan
08-15-2006, 03:15 PM
a tournament is a tournament. if you're the better team, then you better prove it and win.

you get an extra home game. thats it. If you want to be "world" (north american) champs, then you should have the confidence in knowing that you can beat the all of the top other 7 teams in both leagues.

if u get a bad seeding, so what? if you think you deserve the Ring, then beat everybody and ANYBODY.

nuff said.

Aronchis
08-15-2006, 03:18 PM
Yeah, baseball is having such a great year, it is second fiddle to football every year as the numbers show. That isn't great.

The postseason doesn't score well, shows this weakness.

Changes need to be made. Less regular season games, no more interleague play, rewarding division champs more in postseason play, instead of worrying about balancing player payrolls, balance draft/minor league development resources. The league needs help, it isn't doing nearly as well as Selig wants to admit.

Yet, they keep on twiddling their thumbs.

puca
08-15-2006, 03:21 PM
Ah, you want to go back to 1990, then?

Aside from the fact that it wouldn't be as much fun to be a fan, economically baseball simply cannot afford to have only 4 of 30 teams making the postseason every year.

No. There would still be 8 teams in the playoffs. Same as today. Top 2 teams for each division make the playoffs. 2 teams from each of 2 divisions from each of 2 leagues: 2 * 2 * 2 = 8.

TeamBoone
08-15-2006, 03:43 PM
Yeah, baseball is having such a great year, it is second fiddle to football every year as the numbers show. That isn't great.

I assume your speaking of attendance figures. If so, you must remember that football is played once a week, not every day and over a shorter period of time than baseball. It's much easier to fill up the stadium once a week under those circumstances.

If you're talking about ticket income, the same principle applies. Fewer games, sold out stadiums, and very pricey tickets = lotsa money.

If football was played every day, its numbers would drop.

REDREAD
08-16-2006, 06:41 AM
But look on the flip side.. Let's say you penalize the wild card in some way.
Doesn't that give an unfair advantage to one of the division winners (the one that gets to play the wildcard?)

Since the schedule is now unbalanced, plus there's interleague play, you can't just seed the teams based on W-L record.

The division winner that plays the WC already has an advantage. They get to play a 2nd place team instead of a division winner.

I disagree with the writers' premise that the team with the best pitching wins the playoffs every time. His own example, Houston, didn't win the WS last year, and their starting staff looked a lot better on paper than the white sox.

Sure, having 3 good starting pitchers for the playoffs is an advantage, but it's not a sure thing.

REDREAD
08-16-2006, 06:46 AM
Why is that a rule anyway? I've always kind of wondered that. Is it just because of the drama factor? When it does sometimes override the best record plays worst record rule, as you pointed out, it seems kind of silly.

I think they did that rule because of the unbalanced schedule. For example, if the Reds win the WC, they've already played the Cards about 18 times during the year. It's more exciting to play LA or NY, not someone you've already seen ad nauseum.

I actually think it's a good idea, although I agree the first round should be 7 games. IMO, if you can't get past the first round, how can you say that you deserved to win it all?

REDREAD
08-16-2006, 06:48 AM
How about the league that wins the allstar game gets two wildcards, and the losing league gets none. :lol:

vaticanplum
08-16-2006, 10:28 AM
How about the league that wins the allstar game gets two wildcards, and the losing league gets none. :lol:

I have no doubt they'll give this a shot at some point. It counts, you know.

paulrichjr
08-16-2006, 10:33 AM
This is easy enough. Wild card team gets no home games in the first round. You reward the team with the best record and penalize the wild card team at the same time.


I agree with this and hope they make the change this year and hope the Reds are the winners of the wild card. I think we might go all the way then...

(Note: Have you looked at Harang's home numbers?)