September 25, 2011
Expanding the baseball playoff field from eight to 10 teams has been under discussion for almost a year. With players and owners close to settling on a new collective bargaining agreement, what looked like a formality is about to become reality.
According to the New York Post, MLB and the players' union have all but agreed to add one wild-card team in each league and a one-game playoff to determine which team advances.
One obstacle to getting this done is the players' insistence that a National League team shift to the American League to create two 15-team leagues. Having the same number of teams in each league would create fairer competition and help avoid the possible scenario of one wild-card team having a much better record than their one-game playoff opponent. (But it would also require interleague play on every day of the season.)
It's been widely rumored that the Houston Astros would be the team to jump to the AL. But that move is being held up while the sale of the franchise has yet to be completed. Prospective new owner Jim Crane is reportedly opposed to leaving the NL, but the Astros still seem the most likely team to switch leagues.
When would the new playoff format be implemented? The hope is that the new collective bargaining agreement gets completed during the World Series. But if MLB hasn't decided which NL team moves to the AL before next season, the two extra wild-card teams likely won't be added until 2013.
The one-game playoff or "knockout round" for the wild-card teams is something all sides agree upon, however. TV networks prefer a sudden-death game to a best-of-three series. And the players don't want division winners to sit and wait for up to five days while a wild-card playoff series plays out.
Fox Sports reports that two additional issues are holding up a new collective bargaining agreement. First and foremost, the owners want a hard slotting system for the amateur draft. The players, as you might imagine, aren't on board with that. Also still on the table is the luxury tax, mostly in regards to what the new spending threshold should be. One thing that won't be included is a penalty for spending below a minimum payroll.
But that's not the exciting stuff. Are you ready for the excitement of a Game 163, as we saw in 2008 and 2009 to settle the AL Central, every season?
Two teams enter, one team leaves!