Rush Job: The New and Unimproved Baseball Playoff System

This year Major League Baseball added an extra Wild Card round to the playoffs. In it the teams that rightly won the Wild Card in the American and National Leagues play against the team directly behind them in the standings in a one game playoff to see who moves on to the Divisional Series. One game! It’s not fair, really. It’s also stupid.

The idea is that fans will enjoy it because it’s exciting. It would also be exciting if wild animals were let loose on the field as obstacles but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. More seriously, it’s not a good sign if baseball is more concerned with “adding excitement” than it is with what is fair. If this mentality continues who knows what kinds of other poor decisions they could make in the future.

One of the influences for this are the several “game 163” situations that have happened naturally throughout baseball history, including several times in the last few years. This happens when two teams end the 162-game season with identical records and need to play each other to see who gets into the playoffs. Those games are special, and exciting, because they don’t happen that often. If it’s every year it will lose that.

My high school sociology teacher taught me this great phrase: qui bono. That is, who benefits? It’s easy to see who benefits from this added playoff round: Major League Baseball. It’s another million dollars for the stadium that hosts the game, more time for television ads, more exposure, and on and on and on. That baseball is trying to play this off like they’re doing it for the fans is preposterous. They’re doing it to line their pockets, plain and simple. That it waters down the game – and makes the already unnecessarily long season and playoff structure even longer – doesn’t bother them at all. It’s always too bad when the almighty dollar prevails over what is right.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.


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