HOW CAN WE FIX THE MLB POSTSEASON?
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
This article was originally published on October 3rd, 2018.
October is here and that means it's time for the MLB postseason.
What team will be left standing in a few weeks? Can the A's or the Braves make a magical run to shock us all, or is it all the Red Sox's to lose?
There is little difference between the regular season and postseason baseball. It's still 90 feet to first, 60 feet, six inches from the rubber to home. The outfield doesn't get any bigger or smaller.
Despite this, there are things that October brings that you can't find anywhere else in baseball.
This is not going to be a question on whether the MLB Postseason is broken, but rather, is there a better system for the MLB Postseason?
If we take a journey back to 1993, a time when it felt like Pablo Picasso had been drawing the MLB division maps. The Atlanta Braves won the National League West, with 104 wins. As the division winner they where the only team to progress to the postseason.
This meant that the San Francisco Giants who won 103 games missed out on the postseason. Despite their record meaning, they would have comfortably won every other division, they had to stay at home watching inferior teams take their place in the postseason.
The Chicago White Sox won to the ALCS after winning only 94 regular-season games. While the Philadelphia Phillies who were the closest team to the Giants, with 97 wins, made it to the World Series.
Two years later, the MLB introduced the Central Division, to both the NL and AL. This decision to introduce a new division would see the MLB restructure the postseason, as a new third divisional winner is now guaranteed to make the postseason.
To counter this additional team making the postseason, MLB would launch the Wild Card. The best of the non-division winners now had the opportunity to reach the postseason.
Since its introduction, the MLB has seen 6 teams go all the way and be crowned World Series Champions. This includes the Marlins, Angels, and Red Sox who as Wild Card teams won three consecutive World Series between 2002 and 2004.
The Wild Card has also seen its own share of problems, as there was only one available spot for both the NL and the AL. Therefore, it has become common for regular-season powerhouses to be toppled by teams who didn't perform as well over the long haul, but came in hot. This happened for the Florida Marlins in 1997 and 2003 and for the Rockies in 2007.
With these new issues arising, the old one appeared unsolved. It was still possible to have the third-best record in either the AL or NL and completely miss the postseason.
To alleviate this issue the MLB introduced the Wild Card Game, in 2012. A single-game playoff between the two best runners up in both AL and NL. The Wild Card Game has brought us some exciting games. Such as the Royals and A's 9-8 game, in 2014.
Tonight we will see the Athletics who ended up with 97 wins and have to face the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game. While the Indians get straight into the Divisional Series, with only 91 wins. If the A's do manage to pass the 100 win Yankees, they will face the number1 seeded Red Sox, in the NLDS. Even though the Yankees and the A's both hold a better record than every other division winner, out-with their own divisions.
In 1969, the MLB celebrated the 100th anniversary of professional baseball. The season also welcomed in the 'Divisional Era.'
Both the NL and AL were divided into two divisions of six teams. The winners of each division would compete against each other in a League Championship Series, then best-of-five, to determine the pennant winners that would face each other in the World Series.
As travel was not the quickest or cost-effective for teams at the time, divisions had become necessary, as it matched teams from local geographical regions.
However, travel issues are no longer an issue in modern-day sports. Travel is now reliable, quick, and affordable. The Oakland A's who made the least out of all MLB franchises in revenue still made $210 million. There would be no reason they could not travel further east.
Divisions do ensure that at least one team in each league's geographical region, is included in the postseason. Therefore, fans and owners know at the beginning of each year that they have a 1 in 5 chance that they will be in the postseason.
Postseason seedings, however, should not be based on your geographical location. Just look at the AL Central. The Minnesota Twins finished in second place with 78 wins, and the Indians won with only have 91.
It would be crazy to ignore that divisions create better rivalries. Think Giants & Dodgers or Yankees & Red Sox. However, these rivalries are now so ingrained in baseball history that it is unlikely that removing divisions would affect the rivalries. They would just play each other a little less. Possibly creating a better experience and atmosphere when these games do come around.
The Rays are a team that are trapped in a division with the Red Sox and the Yankees. They are unlikely to be able to challenge for winning the AL East, against two centurion teams. They have to be thinking that the only route to the postseason is the Wild Card. That means that their competition lives in the other AL divisions. Therefore, they are already living in a division-less world.
The postseason system should not be about who wins what division. It should be the best teams fighting it out to be crowned champions.
Furthermore, this brings another interesting question, should the MLB get rid of the NL and AL?
The first thing to look at is obviously, the designated hitter. The DH would have to be removed, something that the MLB players have been asking for. Getting rid of the AL and NL, would be the MLB's biggest excuse to end DH era.
“I would take the DH out, even though I know the National League is talking about implementing the designated hitter,” Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) said. “For my pitching purposes, it’s fun to face guys like me who can’t hit. But I do think, for instance when we were in the World Series, the Houston Astros are playing the Dodgers, when we are at Dodger Stadium, we were a little behind. We were not used to hitting, bunting, and things like that.”
If the MLB was to get rid of leagues it would create more balance. Teams would be able to play every other team evenly, providing a better understanding of who are really the best teams through the regular season.
For the most part, the modern-day AL Central is currently a glorified Triple-A division. The division lacks the quality of the other divisions in MLB. Therefore, giving the Cleveland Indians an unfair advantage over other AL teams. The Indians get to face the Twins, Lions, White Sox and the Royals more often and add W's to their win column. While teams such as the Rays, who won 90 compared the Indians 91 have to face the Red Sox and Yankees more often.
It is unlikely that MLB Owners would look favorably in removing the division system. The current 1 in 5 chance of making the postseason is too tempting. So, it looks like we will be stuck with divisions and the Wild Card Games for the foreseeable future.