When the new labor agreement between Major League Baseball players and management was announced amid great fanfare in November, a few loose ends yet remained to be tied down later.
One was the subject of the expansion of post-season play. For the first time since 1995, a change will be made to the playoff format. Starting no later than 2013, a second Wild Card will be added in each league, increasing the post-season pool to 10 of the 30 clubs.
The new format does not appreciably increase the length of the post-season since it consists of a simple one-game playoff between the two Wild Cards in each league. The winner of that game will advance to the regular Division Series.
Though this seems like a no-brainer in terms of implementation, the November announcement stated the question of whether it will go into effect in 2012 would be decided no later than March 1. With one month to go before the self-imposed deadline, the two sides have yet to concur.
Not surprisingly, MLB commissioner Bud Selig wants to get it done immediately.
“It’s pretty definite in my mind,” Selig told USA TODAY. “Teams are anxious. Clubs really want it.”
Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Players Association, is unsure it is feasible this year.
“The 2012 season was not designed to accommodate an extra round of playoffs,” Weiner told USA TODAY. “We’re having discussions to see if it can work. We’ll decide in the next month or so if we’re able to do it.”
Though Weiner was not specific, the concern seems to be the travel involved in the expanded post-season schedule. In addition to this one-game Wild Card play-in game, any division ties will reportedly also be decided on the field going forward. The potential scheduling impact of this change also has to be considered. Though not stated, revenue-sharing issues could also be present.
Given the considerable regular-season benefit of an additional team in the playoff hunt in each league, having fewer off-days during the post-season to fit in an extra game or two should not present a significant challenge. Nor should money be an insurmountable problem.
Here’s hoping the two sides resolve their differences, whatever they may be, and MLB begins the new playoff format this coming fall.
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