Back to playoff structure again; I can't help it.
I just flipped on the Orioles/Rays game when it got to the 15th inning...it's now the 16th. I have to admit: this is a great game between two division rivals competing for the same playoff spot, right near the end of the season. That's not bad.
And in my preferred system, this game would be irrelevant, assuming all else equal (which we absolutely cannot, but what else are we going to do?).
Assuming that the Tigers were in the AL East, they would have a lock on second place. But they and the Red Sox would be still be fighting for the division pennant, with Detroit down 3 1/2 games. Over in the AL West, and assuming Cleveland was in the East, Oakland would be locked into first while the Royals and Rangers fought for the second slot and a slot to play the Red Sox (or the Tigers). Now, that prize would be a bigger one than the WC slots that several teams are fighting over now, since there's no coin flip game to advance to the LDS round, although the LDS round itself would be less valuable to get into (since the division winners would have some sort of very large advantage, probably needing to win one fewer game to advance).
Here on the second-to-last weekend, there are three head-to-head series between teams directly competing for a playoff spot: KC/Tex, Orioles/Rays, and Reds/Pirates. That's not great, but it's OK. After the weekend, we'll have Rays/Yankees (although that may no longer be two contenders)...but that's it. That stinks! Then next weekend, there's Pirates/Reds again, and again, that's all. So while this week has been pretty good, the final week of the season really stinks for head-to-head showdowns.
Yes, there's some luck involved obviously, but only some. The nature of WCs is that any team can compete against any other (same-league, in this case) team. If you restrict competition to divisions, and play in-division at the end, then the chances of getting head-to-head games is much larger.
There's another thing. With in-division competition, as opposed to WCs, the result will be better rivalries rivalries because the same teams every year are competing. Not only that, but it makes for more sensible regular seasons; fans know right away which teams are competing for which spots.
Oh well. We're now in the top of the 18th in the Orioles/Rays game, and I think I'll wrap this up. It may not be the perfect system, but it's working very well right this minute.