BASEBALL NEEDS CHANGES
I tuned in just in time for the 7th inning of last night’s BoSox-Yankees game. Like Steven, I thought the Sox had it won. But, like the Cubbies, they managed once again to find a way to lose.
What’s particularly annoying to me is that we once again have a wild card team in the World Series. Had the Sox not left Pedro in when he was obviously out of gas, we’d have the second consecutive all-wild card Series.
Baseball has the longest regular season by far of any of the team sports, yet also the system in which the regular season is most meaningless. In the NFL, for example, the teams with the best regular season records in each conference get a first round bye and then home field advantage. But the only advantage an MLB division champion gets over a wild card team is they get to play the deciding game of a five game series, if it comes to that, at home. Given how little home field matters in baseball, that’s not much. Indeed, it’s sufficiently meaningless that the San Francisco Giants forfeited a makeup game at the end of the season that would have given them a shot at home field in the NLCS, preferring instead to set their rotation for the NLDS.
Not only is the reward for winning in the regular season small indeed, but success in the regular season also has less correlation with postseason success than in the other sports. It’s rare for an NFL team that went 13-3 in the regular season to lose a playoff game to a team that snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Barring injuries key players or freakish weather, regular season and postseason football are the same games. Not so in baseball. The Atlanta Braves, for example, have been a regular season phenomenon for over a decade, building their team around a strong starting rotation and solid offense. That’s a great formula for a 162 game season with few off days. But the key to postseason victory is to have two hot starting pitchers, an excellent closer, and a bit of luck. In a five game division series, two dominant pitchers can pitch four of the five games because of travel days.
MLB should either radically shorten its meaningless regular season or render it more meaningful by changes of the postseason format. For one thing, I’d make the division series seven games. A five game series is simply unfair to the dominant team. Further, I’d give the team playing the wild card true home field advantage: the entire series would be played in their home stadium. Along with that, I’d eliminate the idiotic rule that a division champion can’t play the wild card team in the opening round if it’s from the same division. The team with the best record should play the team with the worst record, period.
Cross-post at SportsBlog