While we were busy following the hot stove this week, baseball owners met down in Arizona to discuss, as Bud Selig put it, “everything, from A to Z.” Afterward he seemed optimistic, perhaps even excited, but he would not go into the specifics of the meeting — nor would he give a solid reason for maintaining secrecy. It kinda sounds like Bohemian Grove. He did say, though, that the group discussed a wide range of topics, and that at least one will go into effect before the season starts.
Despite the silence from involved parties, we can be pretty sure of one discussion topic: postseason off-days. Selig had already said he’ll do something about it before this October, and surely he’ll involve the owners in the process. This might not be the change they implement before the season, since they have some time to work out the details, but it’s certainly one of the aspects I want to see changed in 2010. Players and fans alike want to see fewer off-days, and I see little reason to not make this a high priority.
How can MLB cut the off-days and maintain a sane postseason schedule? While there are a few options, I agree with Hal Bodley of MLB.com: lengthen the division series. All parties win that way. The players play more often. The fans watch more baseball. The owners make more money. There are a few kinks to work out, of course, but the owners can make this work.
The biggest snag in this plan, as is always the case with the playoffs, is the necessity to schedule each series for the maximum games. There doesn’t appear to be an easy solution for teams who sweep; they’ll have to wait out the schedule in any case. What MLB can eliminate, however, are the days off during series, and perhaps those between the three playoff rounds. Here’s how such a schedule would break down.
A seven-game series, on a 2-3-2 format, takes ten days. That includes two off-days for travel, plus a day off between rounds. It sounds reasonable, a 30-day playoff schedule that includes three seven-game series. If MLB can start the playoffs on October 5 this year, which I presume they will, that means the World Series ends, at the latest, on November 5, which it did this year. At least in the first year of implementation, that sounds reasonable enough.
In future years, in order to avoid November baseball, the schedule will need altering. MLB might have to start the season on April 1 instead of April 4 in order to finish the regular season by the end of September — something they used to always do, it seemed. If the playoffs start by October 2, that means a 30-day playoff schedule keeps it completely within the month. Just one issues here goes unaddressed.
Because of the TV revenue it generates in the postseason, MLB likes to stagger the schedule, ensuring at least one game per day. If one series starts later than the others, that messes up the compact 30-day playoff schedule. It will mean at least two days between the end of one series and the beginning of the next, since one series will finish before the other. All of the sudden, we’re back to November baseball. This is probably the No. 1 reason why MLB will not expand the LDS right now.
Yet there’s a solution to this as well. Again, the players have expressed their desire to play more often in the playoffs. Would they be amenable to eliminating one of the travel days? That would reduce a seven-game series to nine days maximum. This would allow MLB to stagger the schedule, still staying within the 10-day guideline that would ensure no November baseball. Even after eliminating one travel day, the players would still see more off-days than in the regular season, so perhaps they’d agree.
This is clearly a complex issue, so perhaps it will take more time to work out. It should be a goal of both players and owners. Michael Weiner, executive director of MLBPA, doesn’t see it happening this year. “I expect it’ll have to be dealt with in collective bargaining, so we would have to wait until after the 2011 season,” he said.