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Should MLB Expand The Playoffs?

Time to hit on Zachary Levine's favorite topic: the expansion of the Major League Baseball playoffs. Bud Selig says he's pursuing it, the defending champion Giants want nothing to do with it, and the MLBPA says "waaait a minute there, Bud."

I take a very puritanical view of baseball in that I absolutely hate the wild card to begin with, so the potential of adding another one is just going to water down the baseball playoffs even more. I know that at it's heart, playoffs aren't about selecting the best team anymore. That's fine. But shouldn't there be some actual pre-requisite for selecting the teams? Shouldn't there be a reward for the best teams in the league?

Ironically, adding a second wild card does do something about that, because with that you can force the wild card teams to burn their aces before the "real" playoffs start. The real problem you have in this scenario, and all playoff scenarios really, is that sometimes you just don't have a team that "deserves" to be in the playoffs. I know that the 2006 Cardinals won the World Series, and I know that Dustin Rensink is going to murder me for this, but they didn't deserve to make the playoffs. They won 85 games, and that was with an interleague schedule that included six games against the bottomfeeding "rival" Royals.

So if we're going to expand the playoffs, why don't we make this a meritocracy? I don't have any problem letting more teams into the playoffs, but you have to actually earn the playoff spot. So here's my suggestion: if you win 90 or more games, you get a playoff spot. Regardless of what division you are in. Divisions still exist, and as long as the leader of the division wins 90, they are designated as a "division winner." If no team from a division wins 90 games, well, sorry about that. Enjoy the golf before it gets too cold.

Some years you'd have a surplus of playoff teams, some years you wouldn't. Last year, with the Padres and Braves both winning 90 games, the National League could have a one or three game playoff to determine who the wild card team that reached the round of four would be. In the American League, nothing would have changed at all. But perhaps the Red Sox, who finished with 89 wins, would have actually had some incentive to play in the last weeks of the season? They could have made it as well.

What about when you have no deserving fourth team, like in the 2009 American League? Well, that's when you just have one ALDS series and give the team with the best record a bye to the ALCS. The Red Sox and Angels could have played for the right to face the Yankees. In the 2007 National League, with one team that won 90 games legitimately? You go straight to the World Series.

Think about it: the last thing you want to do is diminish the impact of September baseball. Well, if you have a really weak division that is already sewn up, it might suddenly become much more competitive if the team has to go all out to win 90 games. You fix the problem of the wild card team and division champion coming from the same division by making the wild card a much less desirable prize.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.