Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

Joe Sheehan, now at SI, has a terrific column about the structure of the baseball season.  Sheehan:
For too long now, MLB has tried to be like the NFL, emphasizing the postseason at the expense of the regular season while embracing the idea that every team should be competitive every year. It was a ridiculous notion in 1994, when MLB realigned and foisted a new round of postseason play on us, and it's a ridiculous notion now. MLB has raised a generation of fans who don't appreciate the idea of September, of a long, drawn-out pennant race in which there can be just one winner, who don't understand that sometimes a great team can fall short of the postseason or even be eliminated in it, without changing its greatness...That should stop. Instead of cowering when it's compared to the NFL, MLB and its leaders should stand up and brag about the differences that make its game great.


  1. I'd say your plan just doesn't seem fair. It stacks the deck too much for the first place teams.

    I think better would be 2 divisions, division winners go to playoffs. 2 Wild Cards (they can come from either division-- that way we could have Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox in the playoffs if they're the 3 best teams in the AL).
    I like the idea of going Best of 5, but with the 1st place team getting 4 of the home games. This gives them a strategic advantage in getting to bat last, and a psychological advantage of getting to play at home. However, it keeps the fundamental fairness of best of 5.
    The system could be tweaked to best of 7 in the LDS, but with the first place team getting 5 home games, instead of 4.

  2. I would like to do away with Divisions. So two single division leagues with balanced schedules. The winner of each league is then the league champion, they get the pennant at the end of the year. However, you keep the three tiered system by then having a playoff where the top four teams in each league advance and the winner of the playoff is the World Series Champion. This way you can reward excellence (how good you are in the regular season) and also have a money spinning and exciting playoff. Also, get rid of five game series they are useless.

    So in 2009 the Yankees would have been AL Champs, the Dodgers, NL Champs and the YAnkees the World Series Champs (though the world series would still have been Yankees/Phillies). In 2008, Cubs are NL Champs, Angels AL Champs and the Phillies World Champs. In 2007, Boston are the AL Champs, Arizona the NL Champs, and Boston the World Series Champs. And so and and so forth.

  3. My objection to both of these plans is that they don't, in my opinion, allow for two great teams to play meaningful games in September. Mark -- the reality of it is that even if you call the 1st place team the pennant winner, as long as there are playoffs and a WS those are going to be the top goals that teams play for. After all, right now teams could play for "division winner," but we've seen that they don't really care whether they are division winners or WCs. I don't buy that "AL Champ" would be any more meaningful than "AL East Champ." And if not, then all that both of these plans do is give the best teams a boring September, since they'll basically clinch the postseason by mid-August, or even earlier.

    In both cases (anon and Mark), what you're doing is setting up September as a slightly better version of what the NBA & NHL have -- competition among the fairly good teams to get the last postseason spot(s).

  4. Anon,

    You are correct that your system is better for the third best team (in each league) than mine, as is Mark's system. My system would guarantee postseason spots to the best two teams in each league, but not the other two teams would not necessarily be the 3rd and 4th best; Mark's system definitely guarantees that the postseason would be the best four in each league, anon's system guarantees the best three, with a good chance for the best four.

    However, my system has a much better chance of getting the best team in the league into the WS. IMO, that's a much higher value than ensuring that teams that are 3rd and 4th best are fully rewarded for that "achievement."


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