Question of the day: Would baseball be better off with more wild-card teams and possibly shortening the regular season? [Updated]
Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Whatever form playoff expansion takes, it shouldn’t come at the expense of a shorter regular season. The baseball record book is sacred and based on 162 games.
Rather than adding teams, which poses all kinds of logistical issues, perhaps the better measure is making the opening round best of seven instead of best of five. The better team with the deeper pitching is much too vulnerable in a five-game series. It should be significantly more challenging for wild-card teams to advance.
If baseball does expand from eight to 10 playoff teams, it should implement a three-game, first-round series with no off days between the wild cards rather than a one-game-elimination scenario. The winner goes straight to the best-of-seven divisional series, again with no off days.
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
If you love baseball, you really love playoff baseball. I remember racing home from school to watch championship series games in the early '70s. I was at Brian Briscoe’s house, in his family’s sunken living room, when Campy Campaneris fired the bat at Lerrin LaGrow in 1972.
The current postseason format is working well, but this being America, more must be better. So I’ve bought into the idea of adding two more wild-card teams, creating a best-of-three first round between four wild-card teams. I’d be 100% in favor of shortening the regular season, but does anyone think MLB owners are going to open the gates 120 fewer times as a group? No way that’s happening.
So, shorten spring training by a week, open the regular season earlier (bundle up, Midwesterners), and let teams have bigger rosters the first two weeks, protecting pitchers who may not as stretched out as normal.
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
In theory, sure. However, Commissioner Bud Selig says that shortening the regular season is out of the question. The owners, who are Selig's bosses, have made very clear they have no interest in losing any regular-season games, since that means losing money.
That raises the question of how baseball could add more wild-card teams without extending the playoffs into November every year. The players have made clear they would like the division series to be best of seven rather than best of five.
In the most common scenarios, baseball would add a second wild-card team to each league, with the two wild cards facing each other to advance to the division series. If that series ran seven games, or even five, that would add another week to postseason play and force division champions to sit idle for a week. A single-game, sudden-death playoff could mean that a team advanced to the playoffs but never had a postseason home game.
So the most likely outcome would be a best of three, and is a sport that uses a 162-game schedule to separate contenders from pretenders really ready to send a playoff team home in two games?]
[Updated at 11:47 a.m.:
Paul Doyle, Harford Courant
Not to sound like a tired old traditionalist, but baseball would be heading in the wrong direction by expanding its postseason field.
What always separated baseball from other sports was that so few teams advanced to October. The 162-game marathon culminated with teams playing for their lives in late September because only a select few earned the right to advance.
When the wild-card element was added in 1995, baseball began to dilute division pennant races. Yes, we’ve seen some great races for the final postseason berth, and fans have come to embrace the extra round of playoffs.
But adding another team is unnecessary. The final few weeks of the regular season will see teams jockeying for home-field advantage in October, so there will be fewer meaningful games late in the season.
And by the time the World Series rolls around, fans will be burned out. If baseball wants to draw some attention away from the NFL, adding more postseason games isn’t the solution.
Let’s not turn our national pastime into the NHL.]