Base­ball strikes out on play­offs

Forbes - - FACT & COMMENT -

Here’s an im­por­tant change Ma­jor League Base­ball (MLB) should im­me­di­ately make to avoid a colos­sal post­sea­son em­bar­rass­ment: In­crease the num­ber of play­off games be­tween the wild-card teams. As things stand, the top teams in each of the leagues’ three di­vi­sions au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for the post­sea­son play that leads to the World Se­ries. The two wild­card slots go to the non­di­vi­sion-win­ning clubs that have the best win/loss records in their re­spec­tive leagues.

The prob­lem: The wild-card play­off in­volves only one game. The win­ner then goes on to play one of the three divi-

sion win­ners. This is par­tic­u­larly ab­surd for the game of base­ball. Un­like foot­ball, in which, sta­tis­ti­cally, the best team on pa­per usu­ally wins a game, base­ball is dif­fer­ent: Any team, no mat­ter how bad, can win a sin­gle con­test.

This year we could end up with two wild-card teams with an im­pres­sive 100 wins each dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. To have their chances of mak­ing it to the World Se­ries rise or fall on one game is deeply of­fen­sive and un­der­mines fans’ faith in the fair­ness of it all.

At the least, MLB should quickly fig­ure out how to make this year a besttwo-out-of-three con­test.

And be­yond that MLB should shorten the 162-game reg­u­lar sea­son and add games to the play­offs. The length of the post­sea­son pe­riod hardly needs to be as long as those for bas­ket­ball and hockey. But the sys­tem needs chang­ing to re­move the cur­rent capri­cious­ness.

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