Why Three Division Winners Plus Wild Card (and me-too WC)?

Confusion and Obfuscation can often produce lots of fun and excitement. Just look at people in costumes at Halloween parties. But Major League Baseball should recognize their unique, long history in American sports, and not use NBA-inspired, NHL-inspired, NFL-one-game-type playoffs. Look to the College World Series instead. All deserving playoff teams should play all other deserving playoff teams, before advancing to the World Series.

League divisions?? That's a nod to the NFL-AFL merger, but it didn't need to happen to Major League baseball. Division races create the ability of teams to "win it all" in spite of a crummy season. In the NFL, maybe a team that went 9-7 deserves to be a playoff team, because a 16-game season may include many games against some very worthy competition. But right now, in Major League Baseball, should teams with records near .500, after over 140 games, still be "worthy" of playing in a one-game playoff, where a pebble in the field might create a funny bounce, a poor call on a third strike, make all the difference in one game? I suggest a better system, which would create more excitement than even the current avalanche of possible wild card teams.

First, no divisions. Houston can go back to the NL. Using the 14 teams of the American League as an example, all the teams would play each other ten times (130 games) and the regular season would end August 31st. The six teams with the best W-L records would then play thirty games from September 1 to September 30, but only against each other. Three at home, three away, against the other five teams. The eight "also-ran" teams, would then play interleague games (since they are so popular) against the National League "also-ran" ten teams, for the remainder of the schedule for September. The team with the best record among the six playoff teams goes directly to the World Series, starting in the first week in October...on calendar days that the World Series used to be played!

Right now, announcers are talking about the "playoff baseball" atmosphere, the "post-season" feeling to games right now among wildcard contenders. It's a mirage, and the single-game "play-in" is going to be a large disappointment after this year and maybe a couple more. I recall the Cubs making the playoffs a few years back, and Derek Lee making an uncharacteristic error in the field, and the Cubs, a very good team, was out of the playoffs just as they started. It was absurd, and not a true test of baseball ability, for a team to be out of World Series contention having never had a decent number of games against the other two playoff teams (playing only one team!) vying for a World Series berth. Same with Texas versus New York in the late 1990s. One playoff game each year, at home, for Texas. With six teams only playing, and required to play, the other five best teams in their league, over an entire month, truly the best, most deserving team would play in the World Series. No hiding a crummy bullpen behind a pair of very good starting pitchers, playoff series after playoff series.

Leave the World Series as it is, seven games.

Right now, everyone is excited about the second wildcard, because it's like the big, wrapped present sitting under the tree at Christmas. Anticipation of the unknown is nine-tenths of the excitement, because there's never been a scheduled one-game play-in. A rope has been tossed out the back of the playoff train, as it leaves the station! Can your team run and run, grab the rope (fighting off others) and get pulled into the playoff train!! WOW!! Excitement!

And for a sport that plays a 160-plus-game season, it's all wrong. All wrong. After you've one a one-game playoff, you've won...nada. Nothing. Except, probably, an AL wild-card team with a record of 93-69 playing the AL Central 'title team' with a record of 82-80, after beating the 2nd AL wild-card team with a 91-71 record. The 2006 Oakland Athletics won the AL West, and advanced to the ALCS, on the strength of beating one team, Seattle 16 out of 18 games. Against the rest of the league, they were barely above .500...but! In the playoffs!!

Crazy. NHL-style crazy.

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