You’ve got to hand it to Bud Selig. The commissioner of Major League Baseball has something like the Midas Touch—if everything Midas touched turned instantly to shit. Good ol’ Turdfinger—the guy who’s brought you such series of unfortunate events as “The Cancelled World Series of 1994,” “Turning a Blind Eye to Performance Enhancing Drugs,” “Trying to Kill the Twins” and “Making the All-Star Game ‘Mean Something’ by Making it Mean Far Too Much”—has just released his latest hit: “The Last Minute Playoff Format Change.”
Have you been planning your multi-million dollar major league budget based on the playoff format from last year? Well, screw you. On the heels of one of the most exciting final days of the season—wherein not one but two surging squads overtook teams in Mets-style freefall to make the playoffs at the last possible moment—MLB has decided tinker with things just because it can. MLB announced on Friday (the day you announce things you don’t want anyone to notice) that starting, like, now, the playoffs will include two wild card teams per league in addition to the three division winners per league, essentially upping number of teams eligible for the playoffs from eight to 10. Those two wild card teams will play each other in a one-game sudden death play-in.
Yes, there do seem to be several legitimate baseball reasons behind this:
It provides much greater incentive to win one’s division, thus avoiding scenarios like the Yankees resting their players and coasting in as the 2010 wild card rather than challenge the Rays for the AL East crown.
It also makes it tougher for the ostensibly lesser teams that will be filling the wild card slots (a la the 2011 Cardinals) to advance to the World Series (a la the 2011 Cardinals).
But when it comes right down to it, there are likely two main reasons for this:
- Money, in the form of adding two sure-to-sell-out playoff games to the schedule.
- A classic Selig blunder that can be summed up as “If the people like thing X, give them lots and lots of thing X.” But in the same way that having more playoff teams led to a cheapening of the playoff berth, inter-league play directly caused the diminished mystique of the All Star Game, and more home runs in the late ’90s and early aughts led to a distrust of the game’s biggest stars and the stats they put up, so too will this gambit (“Fans sure loved those Cardinals/Braves and Rays/Red Sox sudden death races, so let’s make sure they happen every year!”) ring untrue.
After a 162-game season just to get to the playoffs, even seven games seems hardly enough to really determine a team’s merits. To see it all turn on the random vagaries of a one-game play-in seems cruel and unusual. Rather than finding a convoluted way to incentivize teams to win their division—and not enter the playoffs through the backdoor the wild card provides—wouldn’t it make sense to just remove the back door? Not that that will ever happen. There’s way too much money at stake.
If Selig is looking for ways to further trivialize the eight-month marathon major league players endure to get to the hallowed ground of October baseball, here are four more random rule changes I suggest:
Ws and Ls aren’t the only letters that matter
A special wild card spot will be awarded to the team with the player whose last name has the highest Scrabble value. One representative from each team will be chosen at random to keep Mike Rzepczynski from having too much value. Also, no Bingos.
The Golden Ratio
Renaissance artists were onto something when they proportioned their works according to the Golden Ratio, which is closely related to the Fibonacci Sequence. (By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.) The team whose record contains the most Fibonacci Numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144) will face the team with the fewest in a one-game play-in to face the winner of the wild card play in.
The World Baseball Classic Bylaw
In the spirit of making important distinctions with meaningless exhibition games, home field advantage shall be awarded to team with the most players of the nationality of the winner of the most recent World Baseball Classic. So stock up on Asian and Cuban players now! 2013’s just around the corner.
Hit me with your random playoff strategies below.