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Expanding Playoffs and Mediocrity

By Mike Silva ~ November 18th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva.

There has been talk of adding an additional Wild Card team in each league. This will raise the total of playoff teams to 10, and add a whole element of complexity to winning a championship. Moshe Mandel over at The Yankee U believes such a move would be detrimental to the sport. I believe it would level the playing field.

Mandel states that “a 1 or 3 game series simply adds to the randomness of the postseason, and will often result in the better team going home. Additionally, this system rewards mediocrity and will allow weak teams into the postseason. A perfect example of the ill effects of this idea can be found in the events at the end of the 2010 season. He points out that under this system the Yankees would be on equal footing with either the 89 win Red Sox team, or 88 win White Sox team. This system would also have taken away the last weekend drama of the NL where the Braves, Giants, and Padres all fought for two playoff spots. I see his point, but let’s look at this two ways.

First, compare the percentage of teams that would be making the playoffs in baseball versus the NFL, NBA, and NHL.

NFL – 12 of 32 (38%)

NBA – 16 of 30 (53%)

NHL – 16 of 30 (53%)

Adding two Wild Card teams would still make baseball the hardest sport to make the postseason at 33%. It also might be necessary in a sport that sees the Yankees average player make four times more than a mid tier payroll team. As long as there is no salary cap you have to make it harder for the top 5-6 revenue teams to make it the World Series. If you don’t, we may see Yankees -Red Sox ALCS in perpetuity. Especially now that both teams use their vast resources to develop a farm system. Essentially there cycle never ends while lesser teams have to run their affairs in 3-4 year increments like a college squad.

The second point is the gap between the Wild Card and the next best team. Since 1996 the average Wild Card team won 93 games. The average next best team was at 89. That’s one bad weekend in June as the difference. Not as big a void as we think. Plus, some of the most exciting regular season endings were Rockies/Padres in 2007, Tigers/Twins in 2009, and Mets/Reds in 1999 to name a few. We could see one game playoffs like that every year. I think it would be fun.

I am not saying make the regular season a meaningless affair like the NBA, but the season does drag and this might add even more drama to the mix. Teams might hold onto their superstars and be less inclined to dump early if they can compete for a second Wild Card. I predict attendance might even get a bump in September if there is a reason to watch. There is decent revenue here at stake.

Don’t turn the regular season into a statistic compiling warm up, but let’s add the drama of another Wild Card. It will be worth it, and doesn’t water down the product as much as it may initially seem.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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