Bud Selig reiterated last week that he thinks the expanded playoffs will be ready to roll by 2012. Why not? It's an issue on which the owners and players largely agree.
It'll expand revenues, most important to them, and it'll provide greater value to winning the division than currently exists. We've seen many times, most recently last year's Yankees, when teams appeared only somewhat interested in winning their division - knowing that winning the wild-card didn't create a significantly more difficult path to the championship.
The remaining question, then, is the length of this new round pitting each league's two wild cards against one another. Should be a best-of-three series? Or just one game, a winner-take-all contest?
I can see the merits of both, which makes me feel like Sam Malone in this episode of "Cheers." While I can't find the exact lines, I'm pretty sure that Sam - filling in for Dave Richards as the nightly news' sports reporter - offers a commentary supporting grass over artificial turf. When a newwscaster challenges Sam, arguing that turf is better, Sam concedes that maybe it is.
"So you have...no opinion?" the anchor asks.
"No," Sam says defiantly, "I have two opinions."
Let's take both formats and identify pros and cons. That's usually a sound way of making decisions.
ONE AND DONE
1. The drama of two winner-take-all gams to kick off the playoffs.
2. It wouldn't dramatically disrupt the schedule, in terms of either pushing the games back to November or giving too long a wait to the division winners.
1. That's a dramatic change for that first wild card, to go from best-of-five series to a one-and-done. You're reducing 162 games of results to one day.
2. From a revenue/excitement standpoint, it would be too bad to not get each playoff team at least one home game.
BEST OF THREE
1. It's more fair from a competitive standpoint.
2. The revenue thing - each team getting a home game is significant. Maybe you let the second wild card host Game 1 and then switch to the top wild card's ballpark for Games 2 and 3?
3. Two or three games will obviously wear down a club more than just one game, and therefore put the surviving wild-card club in worse shape heading into the Division Series. And that's the whole idea - reward the division winner more.
1. While division winners would sign on for the idea of being better rested than their wild-card opponent, they're not as crazy about sitting around for three or four days, waiting for the first round to end.
2. This would push the calendar back into November, which Selig just worked to eradicate for this season. Unless they considered some of Sherman's suggestions in his column (having July Sunday doubleheaders, for instance).
I can't think of a third con. So we have two pros and two cons for the one-and-done, and three pros and two cons for the best-of-three. Does that mean I support the best-of-three?
Yeah. Ultimately, I think it's more fair and more representative, and I really do think it's meaningful to make sure the playoffs touch each city at least for a day.
It would be incumbent upon the division winners to stay sharp for the extended rest; it's not like we're asking them to find a lost treasure or anything. It's not a crazy difficult task. And pushing the calendar back into November? That survived the past few years. Or, the July doubleheaders would be cool. Or you could spread it out, do one doubleheader a month.
Have a great day. Daily reading coming shortly, beneath this item.