This post is prompted by two things -- Little Cuz's Facebook post regarding his support of adding one team in each league with a one-game Wild Card playoff, which I vehemently dislike, and listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio this morning suggest something radically different, which if there is going to be a change, I would prefer.
Cowherd expressed his idea in general terms and my intent is to take that general idea and add specific details regarding how I would prefer to implement it. I will also briefly state why I dislike the one-game Wild Card format that is running around the MLB ethernet.
There is no arguing that MLB is struggling to find ways to maintain interest in the game during the long regular season but what they are proposing I would suggest would make a mockery of the game. It is already possible for a nondivision-winning team to win more games than a division winner. At least with the current format that team with the better record has a seven-game playoff series to prove who's the better team. A one-game playoff proves nothing and I would argue it makes the regular season a joke. Look at this year as an example. The Red Sox or Yankees are going to be a Wild Card team, likely with more wins than the other two division winners. People argue that this system would put more emphasis on winning the division but I would argue that adding another playoff slot would have the opposite effect. If this plan is the only plan, then I say keep what we've got.
But the real problem with waining attention during the season is the length of the regular season. Cowherd's suggestion was to cut as much as 1/4 of the regular season to add urgency to the regular season games because as it stands as of today only 10% of the remaining regular season games have any bearing on who will make the playoffs -- those being the games played by the Giants and the Diamondbacks. I like Cowherd's premise, just not in love with the detail (cutting 25%) and lack of any other details. So I'm going to take that premise and run with it.
Let me sidestep for a second and say that I love baseball history as much as I love the game itself. So suggesting a drastic change like this is hard on my heart but the game needs something dramatic for its long-term viability. The game will live, just like it did when the regular was expanded twice before. We still manage to compare Ruth's 60 homerun season to Maris' 61, even though Maris played a longer season, and Bonds had a longer season than that.
If you really want to make the regular season more relevant and have heightened interest from beginning to end, then I think you need to cut the length of the regular season to something like 140 games and add more playoff rounds. It's been argued that you need to have a one-game playoff round of Wild Card teams if you're going to have byes. Well, why can't a team sit for a week while other teams take as many as seven days to play a best-of-five first round? My suggestion is to have six teams (three division winners and 3 wild cards) make the playoffs in each league with the two teams with the best records (regardless of whether they're division winners or not) sitting out the first round while the other four teams play a best-of-five first round.
What my plan does is overall shorten the season, add more interest in more markets and puts an emphasis on winning games without penalizing you for which division you're in. I'd keep the 3 division just for the romance of raising a flag as a division winner but it becomes irrelevant for the most part. Currently you have 162 game regular season, plus 21 games worth of playoffs (potential total of 183), running from the 1st of April into early November. With my plan the potential total would be 159, resulting in a more exciting regular season, especially the last couple of months.
Go ahead and pick it apart but I contend it's much better than any other option and would add some much needed excitement to the game.