When the Yankees wrapped up their World Series title nearly a month ago, they did so after what seemed to be an eternity of post-season baseball. The playoffs stretched on and on and on, and when Robinson Cano fielded the final out of the World Series, the Yanks had played 15 games over a span of 31 calendar days. It was a problem.
The flow of the playoffs for anyone trying to watch or anyone trying to play just seemed wrong. The Yanks and Twins played a three-game set over five days and never faced off on back-to-back days. Then, although both the Angels and Yankees had wrapped up their respective Division Series, the two teams sat through four off days just to accommodate television schedules. The ALCS was a six-game set that spanned ten days.
By the end of the playoffs, the Yankees had played on back-to-back nights just five times and played three games in a row just once. It resembled a regular season basketball schedule more than a baseball schedule, and it allowed the Yanks to use just three starters the whole way through. Baseball had managed to turn the playoffs into something nearly unrecognizable. It did not resemble the day-in, day-out pace of a 162-game regular season played over approximately 185 days.
The obvious culprit is television. In 2007, at the request of TBS and FOX, Bud Selig added an extra day off to the LCS rounds and stretched out the Division Series as well. Instead of the 2-2-1 five-game sets and the 2-3-2 seven-game sets, the Division Series were a mess, and the LCS round would be played as a 2-2-1-2 set barring rain outs. Baseball would stretch endlessly into November.
With his confirmation as the new head of the Players Association yesterday, Michael Weiner said that the playoff format needs to change. “Everybody’s in agreement that the postseason schedule needs some adjustment,” Weiner said. “I’m a hockey fan as well as a baseball fan, and the pace of play this postseason was more of the way you expect a hockey season to go than a baseball season to go.”
His proposal — and one that should be endorsed by both Selig and the TV executives — involves lengthening the division series to seven games and shortening the overall time it takes to conclude the playoffs. It should include variable start dates for the LCS and World Series rounds based upon the conclusions of the prior rounds and will feature fewer off-days. “There is a lot of sentiment for a seven-game division series,” Weiner said. “I think a properly constructed postseason schedule could accommodate three seven-game series but still have it extend over a shorter period of time than what happened this year.”
The seven-game series would even the playing field and allow for a better representation of a team’s true ability while providing higher gate totals and seemingly better ratings. It just makes sense.
For now, though, this plan will remain one on paper. The PA and owners won’t adjust the format until the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2011 season, and then, we should expect to see some playoff changes. Both sides should agree that it would be for the good of the game to streamline October and improve the playoff flow.