Report: Ten-team playoff format a “go” for 2012

2012 Season Preview: Something To Prove
2012 promotional dates include BBQ apron, Snoopy bobblehead
"The system will help the Orioles make the playoffs." "LOL. Good one Bud." (Reuters/Mike Segar)

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has already changed baseball in many ways, but the biggest change will apparently be put in place this season. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the new ten-team playoff format is a “go” for 2012, with an official announcement possibly coming tomorrow. He cautions that the decision is not yet final, but it will definitely happen. Tomorrow is the soft deadline for the two sides to hammer out the details and implement the system.

Under the new system, the three division winners in each league will automatically make the playoffs while the two non-division-winning teams with the best records will meet in a one-game playoff. The winner of the one-game playoff will then play the division winner with the best record. Unlike the last 17 seasons, two teams from the same division will be allowed to meet in the League Division Series round thanks to the new CBA. The regular season ends on October 3rd this year, so I guess the one-game playoff will be played on the 4th with the LDS rounds starting on the 6th. That gives the team that wins the one-game playoff time to travel without giving the division winners too much time off.

The new system places significant importance on winning the division, which has immediate impact on the Yankees. Just last week Brian Cashman admitted that the team wasn’t trying to win the AL East in 2010, instead settling for the Wild Card and opting to get healthy in September. With the new system, settling for one of the two Wild Card spots means you’re forced into a one-game, winner take all situation, and no one wants that. It will make for crazy exciting baseball as a fan, at least until your favorite team has its season end in that one-game playoff.

I don’t like the idea of an entire season coming down to this one-game playoff, but what’s done is done. I’ll be interested to see how the new system impacts the trade deadline though. With more teams in the running for playoff spots, there figures to be fewer non-contenders and thus fewer teams selling off pieces. At the same time, the race to add those few available pieces will be greater because there will be more teams looking to boost their playoff chances. Could make for a real hectic July, not to mention the August waiver trade period.

Ultimately, it all comes down to money. The new system allows the league to promote the game and make some additional advertising revenue while owners get a better chance at some playoff revenue. Attendance should increase as well, particularly late in the season. Some clubs that had little chance at the postseason (like the Blue Jays, for instance) can now dream of October baseball. September races should be a little more interesting, at least in theory. The Yankees have a great team and one good enough to win the AL East again, but the safety net is no longer in place.

2012 Season Preview: Something To Prove
2012 promotional dates include BBQ apron, Snoopy bobblehead
  • YanksFanInBeantown

    But we’ll never have anything as interesting as this September again.

    • cleanuphtr12

      Why not? The teams were fighting for a wild card spot? Who’s to say we won’t see something similar for the second wild card spot?

      THIS year wouldn’t have had as great of an ending to the regular season but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s unlikely, but this year’s ending was too. people are overreacting when they say things like this.

      • YanksFanInBeantown

        Game 162 was life or death for 4 teams this year. From now on it will either be Game 163 every year, in which case it becomes rote rather than special, or a team will have a sudden death 162 to get to a sudden death 163, greatly diminishing the rewards of that Game 162.

    • Slugger27

      this comment doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. why is it less likely for teams to be close in the standings for the 2nd wildcard than it is for the 1st?

      • YanksFanInBeantown

        I don’t think it will be as interesting for two teams fighting it out for the second wild card. They will still have to burn their best pitcher to make the playoffs the next day, putting them at a massive disadvantage. This year both the Rays and Cardinals had a fair shake in the postseason, and the Sux and Braves would have had one as well. Now it will be a race to get bumped out in the first round.

        • Jim Is Bored

          But now you have added emphasis on winning the division, which it feels like you’re ignoring.

  • B-Rando

    You have to think that one game playoff will severely affect the outcome of the playoffs. Instead of Game 1 of the DS lining up to be #1 starter vs #1 starter, it may be #1 vs #2/#3 because the #1 was used in the playoff round. The division means A TON now. I like that, because being AL East champs will actually be more now than just making the playoffs. I’m curious to see how wild card teams will perform against division winners moving forward. I wouldnt be surprised to see less wildcard world series births.

  • Jesse

    I’m “eh” on this one.

  • Kiko Jones

    I have never cared for the Wild Card; giving a team an undeserved playoff berth—as opposed to those who won their divisions outright–always rubbed me the wrong way, even though I understood its necessity. Now, with the addition of an extra WC team, it feels slightly better to know that winning your division has gained a bit more importance, lest you find yourself on the losing side of a one game playoff.

    • Bryan V

      I agree that wild cards kind of water things down, but were a necessary evil in order to make the playoffs work. Giving the team with the best record a bye into the LCS was one option (letting the other two division winners battle it out in the DS), but that would mean the #1 team would be sitting around for a week and a half… not good.

    • CP

      I have never cared for the Wild Card Division winners getting in; giving a team an undeserved playoff berth—as opposed to those who won their divisions outright had a better record –always rubbed me the wrong way


      • Cris Pengiucci

        Yeah, but “best Record” reallyonly means something if there is a balanced schedule. Without that, teams in a weaker division may have more wins, but still be a weaker team.

        • roadrider

          Yeah, but the weak division winner phenomenon only really became a regular issue with the advent of this idiotic 3-division set up which was neither necessary nor desirable (in my opinion, that is). Sure, there were some weak division winners in the 1969-1993 era (the 1973 Mets come to mind) but when you’ve got four- and five-team divisions you’re bound to have weak sisters winning divisions on a regular basis.

          I dislike the current Wild Card system and I will like this new one even less. Sooner or later the wild card playoff will expand into a three- or five-game series lengthening the already too long playoff season and guaranteeing November baseball. And the faux excitement of these one-game playoffs is sure to fade long before that.

  • Bryan V

    I’m really torn on this.

    On the one hand I don’t like adding any more teams to the playoffs. I like that only 27% of teams in MLB make the postseason, compared to leagues like the NFL where half of the teams make the postseason.

    On the other hand I do like that this makes winning the division mean more, which is definitely a good thing, as it used to take winning the division to move into the postseason.

    Overall I don’t really care.

  • Total Dominication

    Winning the league is now huge. By doing so, you get to play a team that has just used their top pitcher in the previous series.

  • the Other Steve S.

    Nice combover

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Poof. Everything interesting about the WC is gone. There’s no reason to make it this difficult for teams that didn’t finish first in their division. Nothing was broken. An incredibly lame and shitty decision.

    • Guest

      There are a ton of reasons to make it more difficult to make it more difficult for teams that didn’t finish first in their division.

      If the LONG baseball regular season is suppose to mean anything, there should be some meaningful advantage to winning your division and some meaningful disadvantage to being the wild card. There just has not been a sufficient punishment for failing to win your division in the wild card era, and the results show it. Wild Card teams have won five world Series in seventeen years (a better World Series win percentage than division winners have) and are over .500 in division series play.

      Here’s an example meant to point out my issues with the old system:

      Let’s say the Yanks win 101 games, Boston wins 92 and WC, Texas wins 95 games, Detroit wins 94 games.

      In this scenario, the Yanks play Detroit, Boston plays Texas. Like Boston, Detroit has to go on the road. BUT Detroit also has to play the tougher team despite having more wins than Boston AND winning its division, which Boston failed to do. That’s nuts.

      This system seems like it will create more drama in September, increase the incentive to win the division, not add a single day to the length of the baseball season, AND guarantee that we will have a “sudden death” game every season.

      I know its fun to say MLB sucks, but I honestly don’t see the downside to this.

    • Havok9120

      As ambivalent as I am about this, even I have to admit that there was far, far too little benefit for winning your division. ESPECIALLY in the AL East. This changes that, and I approve of at least that aspect.

  • Guest

    I like this change. I really do. People say this new rule will prevent great finishes like last year…but last year’s finish would have never happened without the wild card. There are always going to be races for that last playoff spot, and there always are going to be races that will be “ruined” because there are multiple teams that make the playoffs.

    As for the argument that it’s unfair to have the entire season come down to one game…well, the teams in the playoff game had a full 162 game season to try and win the division. They didn’t.

    A 98 win team might be second its division and get knocked out by an 85 win team that has a lights out ace in the play-in game. I agree that that’s harsh. But if you don’t want to face that fate, win your division.

    This new system will make for more exciting September baseball among the teams at the top of the league (trying to win their divisions to avoid the play-in game) AND the middle (trying to get that second wild card spot).

    Plus, as we learned last year on September 28, 2011, baseball goes to another level in one game “do or die” situations. Now we get that every year.


    • YanksFanInBeantown

      And the 83 win team from the NL Central gets into the playoffs uncontested and wins the World Series.

      Because the current division system works.

      And as for getting do-or-die situations every year: Have you ever seen The Incredibles?

    • thenamestsam

      For me the downside will be when we see a 3rd place team jumping up and down on the mound celebrating a world series triumph. I didn’t like the wild card for the same reason that it just feels intrinsically wrong for a team that lost out to another team over the course of the regular season celebrate the big prize in the end. Potentially letting a 3rd place team win it all is just not right in my mind. It doesn’t compute.

      • Steve (different one)

        Sure, but let’s say the Rays win 95 games and finish 3rd. The winner of the AL West wins 93 games and the winner of the Central wins 92 games. Why are the Rays less worthy than the other 2 teams? Because they happen to be in a division with the Yankees and red sox?

        • thenamestsam

          But this is such an imperfect solution to that problem. If all you care about is having the 4 or 5 most deserving teams in the playoffs then ignore the divisions and choose the 4 or 5 teams with the best records. In your scenario why is it fair that the Rays have to play a 1 game play in when those other teams are in?

          To me you should choose, either winning the division matters (my preferred choice) in which case you take just division winners and work it out from there, or winning the division doesn’t matter in which case just ignore it entirely. This system is half-assed and dumb. Baseball is trying to have “Winning the division matters!” while simultaneously having a system where a 3rd place team can win the World Series. That doesn’t make sense to me.

          • Steve (different one)

            Agree that it’s imperfect, I’m not that crazy about this new system either.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    Great now the second place loser makes the playoffs in addition to the first place loser…. whats next a batting tee?

  • Damian

    I have to say: you’ve gotten two legitimate chuckles out of me with the photo captions–this and the Russell Martin.

  • ryan

    so this means that the the Yankees and the Red Sox could meet up in the ALDS?

    • Havok9120

      Yessir. We could, quite easily, find ourselves playing AL East opponents for the first two rounds of the playoffs.


      • ryan

        well, no.. we couldnt play the AL east twice because one would be eliminated in the wildcard playoff

    • Midland TX

      I think so. If the Yankees have the best record in the league and Red Sox defeat the other WC team in the one-game playoff, then that’s exactly what would happen.


    In this fast-paced, Twitter age, I am afraid Selig and Co. are not thinking far enough ahead. Fortunately, I’ve given this a lot of thought and I have some ideas for how baseball can create even more artificial drama.

    First, if you thought the BCS was exciting, just wait until we introduce the MLBCS. That’s right, division standings will no longer be determined by wins and losses, but the votes of sports writers around the country. We all now that grit means more than wins, but now we have a system to prove it. When does a losing team have a chance to win and a winning team a chance to lose? When you play MLBCS!

    Second, once the season is over it’s time for the fans to get involved with “American Idol”-style voting for the selection of a wild-card team from each league. Everyone loves democracy and it’s time for baseball to enter the 21st media-verse. What could be more democratic than letting fans say which team is deserving of a shot at the World Series! Starting at the All-Star Break, each week a different team could make their case for why they too deserve a shot at World Series glory all leading up to an exciting results show announcing the two winners, sponsored by Ford and Coca-Cola.

    Third, “March-Madness” playoff structure. Why only add two teams when you can add sixteen! Starting in October, the top twenty two teams from each league–plus the two teams voted in by the fans–begin a round-robin, double elimination tournament leading up to “December Delirium” when the top eight teams meet in a single-elimination, one-inning pitch-off to determine who gets to the World Series.

    Finally, decide the winner of the World Series by a home run derby. It’s not only “chicks” that dig the long ball. If we learned nothing else from the steroid era it’s that home runs bring people to the ballpark. Why wait seven games when you can know who’s the winner in as little as seven pitches! It’s fun for the whole family.

    I await my call from the league offices.

    • YanksFanInBeantown


    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      Excellent. I’m sure something along these lines might come into fruition 30 years from now in the Twenty’40’s

    • bpdelia

      That is easily the funniest, best written, most well thought out comment I have ever read on rab. Seriously, kudos sir (or madam) awesome.

      • ROBTEN

        It’s spring training, I’m in the greatest shape of my life.

        /Seriously, though, thanks. I appreciate it.

    • Juke Early

      After such a detailed exegesis, I truly hate to point this out. You forgot to mention how everyone will get participation trophies. And I do mean everyone. Well, everyone who was in the ballpark for the games. Or who will claim they were, a decade or more later. . ..

  • Peter North

    I’d rather they just made the LDS a 7-game series and left the WC alone.

    • steve s

      Agree 100%. That would have been the better move. Also, while it’s just bookkeeping, I’d like the one game to be considered a regular season game for baseball record purposes and not a “post-season” game.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If they were that itching for change, that’d have been a better change. Agreed.

      I always liked giving the WC team a chance, as it allows for a team with a solid record that finished second to have a chance to compete. The 80’s would have gone down a lot easier for Yankee fans if the WC was around. Two WC teams with a one-game playoff and little rest? Too much to chance, too much of an advantage to the division winner. Just not a fan.

    • Havok9120

      That would have accomplished their stated goal of getting more teams involved in the Moneymaking Bonanza that is postseason baseball.

      • Havok9120

        That would not*

        It also would have conflicted with their continuing efforts to shorten the season without the addition of mandatory double-headers.

  • ADam

    Does this have any effect on the proposed/talked about realignment? Or is that still on the table?

    • Cuso

      the realignment is Houston in the AL West in 2013 and inter-league baseball being played year round

      • YanksFanInBeantown


  • Bo Knows

    I would have no problem with this, if they just do away with the divisions all together. That way only the 3 best teams in each league earn the actual playoff berth leaving the WC battle to the 4th & 5th best teams. This way, we can at guarantee (as much as possible) that the WC winner is deserving and not a low winning team that lucked in.

    • YanksFanInBeantown

      This is the best 5 team playoffs I’ve heard

    • roadrider

      And in the process you reduce the regular season to a tedious six-month long seeding process in which the only meaningful “race” is between the fifth and sixth best teams (OK, some years the third and fourth spots might actually be up for grabs). Why would anyone pay attention until October?

      • fin

        YOu could still keep the divisions, at least make it a balanced schedule so teams in very strong divisions dont have such a large disadvantage to those in week divisions. I dont see them doing this though, as I dont think they want to see 3 teams comming out of the same division. Using this year as an example, I think 3 of the best 5 teams are in the AL east but I doubt all 3 make it. Not only are 3 of the best 5 teams in the East, but the 4th best team is good also. I have to be honest, 18 games against the redsox, definately waters down the rivalry. This wasnt my idea, Ripken on MLB proposed it. It went something like 8 games agaisnt teams in your division, 3 games agaisnt all NL teams.

  • NapLajoieonSteroids

    The wildcard matchup is a great idea but a single elimination is a poor execution of it. What they should do is have it so that it is only a single game if the 4 and 5 seed finish within three games of each other; and if 5th seed is further back than three games, make it a double-elimination double-header.

    That would eliminate the occurrence of a 100 win team losing the wildcard to clearly inferior 89 win team. If that 89 team would be able to sweep a doubleheader, they’d clearly deserve to move on in that instance.

    Other than that, it is an exciting prospect and I’m glad baseball is implementing this.

  • Steve (different one)

    Here’s the situation I fear: last day of the season: the Yankees and red sox have 97 wins. The Rays have 92 wins. The next best second place team has 89 wins.

    So the Rays have locked up the 1 game playoff and can set it up to pitch who they want in the 1 game playoff. Because the penalty for not winning the division is so steep, the Yankees and Sox have to use their best starter (if they can).

    The 98 win team moves on fine. The 97 win team is now at a disadvantage to the team they finished 5 games ahead of in a 1 game playoff.

    • thenamestsam

      Excellent point. These are the kind of cases that develop when you have an overly convoluted system.

  • Tom

    The fundamental problem with this:

    The scenario where the 2 teams with the best record are both burning throw their top three starters to win the division. This has a potentially severe impact on not just the loser of the division, but the division winner as well.

    If the second wild card team more or less has things wrapped up (think the Braves last year under this new format) they line up their ace against potentially a #4 starter. The Braves were relatively even record-wise with the other would be widlcard team, but think Rays-Yankees division loser against the Red Sox who finshed 8(?) games back.

    And the division winner (which may have the best record in the league) is potentially at a disadvantage as their top starter, or possible top two starers, may not be available in game 1 in a 5 game series?

    Sure it adds excitement but I think this just injects more randomness, and takes a bit away from the regular season. I’d rather they do a 3 game series (maybe games 2/3 are a doubleheader) where you don’t have a potential situation where the 2nd best team in baseball is in a coin flip game with the 5th best team who has their ace against the better team’s #3 or 4 starter.

  • YanksFanInBeantown

    The best way to increase the importance of the Division title and balance the leagues is a 2 team expansion, maybe New Orleans and Las Vegas, a realignment to 4 divisions each, North, South, East, West, and scrapping the Wild Card altogether.

    • Havok9120

      Not until the economy rebounds.

      Even then, I’ve been living on the Gulf Coast for most of the last decade and in NOLA for several years and there could not be less interest in MLB baseball or baseball in general. Nevermind the fact that this city is an ever-shrinking market, its also just not too big a sports town beyond the Saints. Look at the Hornets. Even when they had that 2 or 3 years of competitiveness they didn’t draw.

      As for Las Vegas….I’m with the general consensus on this one. “Meh.”

      • YanksFanInBeantown

        Yeah, those were just the biggest cities I could think of without MLB teams and I know that LV has been agitating for a major sports team for a few years.

    • thenamestsam

      This is my preferred solution. The two locations you named may not be ideal, but as the economy comes back a bit baseball could easily expand twice, and that would be the best possible format in my eyes.

  • Kevin G.

    I don’t understand why that was so difficult for them to set up.

  • Tim

    I see an even bigger problem with this set-up than some of you are mentioning here. Here’s a hypothetical:

    Yankees win 98 games
    TB wins 96 games
    Texas wins 93 games
    LA wins 90 games
    Detroit wins 89 games

    TB and LA play the one game playoff, and TB wins. Now the Yankees, who finished with the BEST RECORD IN THE LEAGUE, get the pleasure of facing the SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE in the Division series. Sure, the Rays would have used their de facto #1 in the one-game playoff, but the Rays rotation is full of #1’s – there isn’t too much drop-off from Price to Shields to Moore. The Yankees should get to play the team with the worst record of the remaining teams, regardless, but in this situation the exact opposite might happen. And this scenario isn’t exactly far-fetched, either.

    I prefer what someone else above suggested – rank the teams in the league 1-14 and take the top five. This way the above NEVER happens.

    • thenamestsam

      Another strong counterpoint.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    great move, this is like affirmative action. toronto will make some noise this year, boys

    • Bo Knows


      you are not black, you are a racist caricature

      • tyrone sharpton

        wow stop the hate, just sayin TOR gunna be #winning nxt yr…racist crackah

    • Jim Is Bored

      Why the heck would you bring up affirmative action, even as a joke?

  • Jamey

    They’ll really love this if the two best teams in baseball come out of 1 division & 1 of them misses the playoffs because they can’t use their best pitcher for a 1 game playoff against a .500 team.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    I like the added playoff team but you have to make the wild card round best of 3. They could start the day after the regular season ends and all be played in the city of the team with the better record with no days off in between games.

    After playing 162 regular seasons games, to decide a playoff round by a single game is just absurd.

    To avoid playing to deep into November, they should reduce the regular season to 158 or even 160 games, make the wild card round best of three and the division series, league championship series and world series all best of seven.

  • bpdelia

    I was hoping the extra wild card series would be three games. Then the winner of that plays the one seed 7 games all on the road. That would be fair.

  • AC

    Extra WC I have no issue with it. My only issue is winner of 1 game playoff can play the team they were 15 games back from in there division in the LDS. I like how it was for last 17 yrs that WC winner couldn’t play the team with best record if it came from same division in LDS. You were 10-15 back from division winner but now you can beat them in a best of 5. I like it only best of 7.

  • KeithK

    Here’s my question. How does this impact tiebreakers? Currently when two teams finish tied atop a division and are each guaranteed a playoff spot they use head to head record to break the tie instead of a playoff because both teams make the playoffs anyway. What happens now? Does the presence of the wild card playoff affect other one game playoffs to decide divisions (when a WC berth is not involved)?

    the one thing I am almost sure of is that head to head will be used to determine who hosts the WC playoff if two teams tie. But what if three teams tie for the WC? What if three teams tie with two in the same division? Four? Inquiring minds want to know (and eagerly await it happening.)

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    Holy bad hair(pieces) bat man!

    • Juke Early

      Hey! that’s 56% of what’s left of their actual hair. You would think a guy involved in baseball, would wear a baseball cap. I am guessing he doesn’t have self esteem issues. Or any mirrors.