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Article: Enjoying The New Playoff Format, Twins Fans?


Nick Nelson
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Shortly before ending his lengthy tenure as Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig made a controversial change to the foundational setup of the game's playoff format. The 2012 season became the first in which a second wild-card team was added for both leagues, pushing the number of postseason entrants from eight to 10.It was no surprise that there was widespread backlash to this major reconfiguration. More than most, baseball is a sport that is resistant to change. The difficulty of achieving a postseason berth at the end of a 162-game marathon was one of MLB's differentiators, with the NFL sending 12 teams to the playoffs and the NBA letting in more than half of its squads.

 

Traditionalists had a hard enough time accepting the idea of a single wild-card team when Selig oversaw its implementation back in 1995. Now another one was being added, with the wrinkle that the two wild-card winners would face off in a single game that decided which club would move on. It sort of flew in the face of the league's underlying mechanics.

 

"This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year," Selig stated when he initially announced the creation of the Wild Card Round.

 

Whether you like the change or not, you can't deny that both those things are true, and as fans in Minnesota are now learning, the benefits of this new format stretch even further. Because while the Twins may or may not overcome the Astros (or Rangers) and earn a chance to participate in the wild-card play-in, we're still getting to experience the excitement of contention in September, adding a level of drama that previously would have been missing.

 

If not for this new setup, the Twins – who obviously have no shot at winning the division – would currently be trailing the Yankees by four games for the American League's lone wild-card opening, with the Astros also standing in front of them and with 18 games remaining and no head-to-head match-ups against either. That's not an impossible hill to climb but it's an awfully steep one.

 

Instead, Minnesota is within a game and a half of Houston, and at this juncture in mid-September every game carries huge significance. That's a level of late-season drama that we haven't had around here in a long time. On Tuesday night, I found myself flipping the channel frequently from Fox Sports North to ESPN, where the Rangers/Astros game was being nationally televised.

 

Scoreboard watching! Hypothesizing about playoff rotations! The highs and lows attached to individual victories and losses that can dramatically alter the playoff picture! We've missed these exercises and emotions over the last four years – at least I know I have. So I'm awfully glad that the new format enables us to have them now.

 

Then again, I've never had a problem with the added wild-card teams, nor with interleague play, nor the All Star Game dictating home field for the World Series, nor instant replay, nor any of the innovations that took place under Selig. I'll always harbor some resentment for the man over that whole contraction fiasco, but in general I believe that he did a lot of good for the game, and now I'm getting to appreciate one of the final touches of his legacy first-hand, along with my fellow Twins fans.

 

I'm curious to hear the viewpoints of some readers on this topic. Do you like the new playoff structure? Has your opinion shifted now that you're experiencing its perks? What alterations would you make to the setup, if any?

 

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Biggest criticism is that it is only one game for the wild card playoff. Two out of three would be better and wouldn't push the playoffs back that far.

Think you are underestimating how much it would push the playoffs back. Right now, they have 3 scheduled days off between the end of the regular season and start of the division series. That covers a day for travel/tiebreakers/weather, a day for the wild card game, and then an extra failsafe day for travel/tiebreakers/weather. Your "best of 3" would take up all 3 days with no allowance for travel/tiebreakers/weather.

 

Short version: it would add 2 games, but it would almost certainly add more than 2 days to the postseason if you want to keep the rest of the postseason schedule intact. And one of those games/days would be "if necessary" which would be a silly way to hold up the rest of the postseason.

 

I think you are generally missing the point of the wildcard game if you think it should be best of 3. That's not a wild card game anymore, that is an extra round of the postseason.

Edited by spycake
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One thing I don't like about the playoffs is that they stretch on too long, you're playing the world series in November. Really? In Minnesota?? Do you like seeing baseball played when you can see the players breath or you have snowflakes coming down?? I don't. To top it off they play all the games at night when its in the 30's when they could play during the day and it might be 45 and sunny.

 

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The only thing I would change is that I would eliminate the wildcard play-in game if both qualifying teams were from the same division. If the season ended today, the Pirates would have to play the Cubs, even though Pittsburgh is four games ahead of them in the same division. That seems pretty unfair to the Pirates.

Edited by matthew0211
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One thing I don't like about the playoffs is that they stretch on too long, you're playing the world series in November. Really? In Minnesota?? Do you like seeing baseball played when you can see the players breath or you have snowflakes coming down?? I don't. To top it off they play all the games at night when its in the 30's when they could play during the day and it might be 45 and sunny.

This is my pet peeve too.  I understand TV contracts and that whole mess but I hate the predetermined schedule.  I am trying to remember what year it was but both teams won the LCS in 4 or 5 games and it was a week before the WS started.  In baseball terms, that is too long of a break.

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I don't like the new WC format - it cheapens the integrity of the game and the 162 game schedule. It turns the MLB playoffs into something that resembles a beer league softball tournament. I do agree with you that we are experiencing the WC benefits this year with the Twins but the few teams it impacts positively every year does not compensate for the negatives of the extra WC team. Mind you, I still think the DH is sacrilege.

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"Because while the Twins may or may not overcome the Astros (or Rangers) and earn a chance to participate in the wild-card play-in, we're still getting to experience the excitement of contention in September, adding a level of drama that previously would have been amiss."

 

Manufactured, not earned, drama IMHO. 

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I like the format, and have since it was announced.

 

It restores the worth of winning a division, while bowing to the inevitability of expanded post seasons. One game is perfect, it adds a little benefit to the number one seed, and makes for great TV to boot.

 

In many seasons, it will keep multiple markets interested late into the season.

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The excitement of the Twins two straight Game 163s (and the TV ratings they certainly received) certainly gave MLB the push to go to this one-game format. 

 

I like that winning the division now matters, but I struggle with a 162 game season coming down to one game. Then again, two Wild Card teams met in the World Series last year, so anything can happen (And does happen) in the playoffs!

 

It's definitely created more interest from more teams who are still competing.

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I still think the second WC rewards undeserving teams and allows cheap(er) teams to not make moves to be real competitors because this faux playoff race keeps fans coming to the stadium making money for the owners which is all owners really care about. But I'm probably a hypocrite. GO TWINS!

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Still hate it. Four games out, and playing above .500 baseball, still puts the Twins in "playoff contention" at this point with four teams. A steeper hill yes, but one series sweep could change everything in a matter of days.

 

It wasn't about adding another market into the playoff mix, one game doesn't do that, or at least enough of that.

 

It was about capitalizing on the excitement that had been provided recently by teams tying for their division, and having to play a game 163. This just makes that happen every year.

 

It's incredibly against the fabric of how baseball works to have a PLAYOFF "series" be a single-game-sudden-death-free-for-all.

 

A single game against one opponent never happens in the schedule during the entire season, why on Earth would determining a playoff series in this manner be considered logical?

 

The only thing I see that it does, is gives the term "Wild Card" a true meaning, because who knows what the heck is going to happen in that game. it's fun in it's own way, but as mentioned, it's manufactured, not "true baseball," to me.

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I have a few comments but won't have time to put them all in one note so more will follow.

First, and I know this is nitpicking, I think we should all try to use the correct terminology. In MLB, the games in which the 10 qualifying teams play down to determine the World Champion are referred to as the postseason. Playoffs are the games played in the event of a tie after 162 games to determine which team(s) qualify for the postseason. A playoff game is part of the regular season, and as such the game is often referred to as game 163. The postseason game between two wild card teams to determine who advances to the postseason division series is NOT game 163.

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That is a bigger part imo. The ability of more teams to make the post season. In years past, the playoffs are almost already decided by now. The division leaders and wc would be pretty much decided.

 

That made for bad baseball. Teams cashed in. Bad teams still cash in, but look how many are still playing meaningful games.

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Think you are underestimating how much it would push the playoffs back. Right now, they have 3 scheduled days off between the end of the regular season and start of the division series. That covers a day for travel/tiebreakers/weather, a day for the wild card game, and then an extra failsafe day for travel/tiebreakers/weather. Your "best of 3" would take up all 3 days with no allowance for travel/tiebreakers/weather.

Short version: it would add 2 games, but it would almost certainly add more than 2 days to the postseason if you want to keep the rest of the postseason schedule intact. And one of those games/days would be "if necessary" which would be a silly way to hold up the rest of the postseason.

I think you are generally missing the point of the wildcard game if you think it should be best of 3. That's not a wild card game anymore, that is an extra round of the postseason.

 

Agreed, I love that teams have to fight so hard for the division because it's worth it.  The Wild Card has become a true Wild Card - totally random. 

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How does it cheapen the game, and ruin the integrity? It is entertainment, there is no "integrity" of the game when it comes to saying who is the best. Really, the playoffs as a whole are a silly way to crown a champion. There is no way to agree on what the "best" team is. There are hundreds of articles on line about figuring out the "best" at something, in sports, in chess, in pinewood derbies. Is it the team that does the best game after game? The team that is the "best" in some kind of playoff where only some of the teams get to play? The team that finished with a better record than a division winner, but is excluded because their division had an even better team?

 

Really, if you have some kind of belief that there is a "best" team.....that probably isn't a real thing.

 

edit:

as for the current playoffs, I like the 1 game deal. It gives some more good teams a chance, but makes winning a division more valuable than being the 2nd or 3rd best team in a division.

Edited by mike wants wins
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I still think the second WC rewards undeserving teams and allows cheap(er) teams to not make moves to be real competitors because this faux playoff race keeps fans coming to the stadium making money for the owners which is all owners really care about. But I'm probably a hypocrite. GO TWINS!

 

I disagree here. I love that there is less of an incentive to move players at the deadline. It's always made me a bit uncomfortable that teams can add significant pieces at the deadline. Hopefully the wild card makes it so teams just add some small pieces and there are less huge transformations.

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This is my pet peeve too.  I understand TV contracts and that whole mess but I hate the predetermined schedule.  I am trying to remember what year it was but both teams won the LCS in 4 or 5 games and it was a week before the WS started.  In baseball terms, that is too long of a break.

 

Yeah, the NBA has this issue too. The minute both LCS's are over, they should take a day and start the World Series. You have to trust that your product is good enough that people will tune in no matter the day of the week.

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Personally, I hated the one WC game.  If memory serves, I believe it was SF & LAD battling it out on the last game of the year for the division.  The announcers were building it up as this exciting moment, when in reality, both teams were already assured of making the playoffs, 1 as division winner, 1 as the Wildcard.  

The 2nd WC game is incentive to WIN your division, and means the teams that really don't deserve to be in (since they DIDN'T win their division) at the very least will usually have to burn their best pitcher in the hopes of moving on to the real playoffs.

The 1st WC game was an abomination.  At least the 2nd WC game somewhat levels the playing field, at least in theory.  

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The excitement of the Twins two straight Game 163s (and the TV ratings they certainly received) certainly gave MLB the push to go to this one-game format.

The 2009 game was a contributing factor, perhaps, as well as the Padres-Rockies tiebreaker in 2007, although I think the Twins 2008 tiebreaker is largely forgotten.

 

And note that there wasn't much of a push to add the wild card game before the 2010 or 2011 seasons.  I think the primary impetus was the ultra-exciting final day of the 2011 season, with a number of teams in win-or-go-home games.  (Although ironically, the drama of that day would have been severely lessened if the wild card game had been in effect that year.)  Plus the 2011 World Series game 7, the first of its kind in 9 years, showed again how captivating the "win or go home" game can be.

 

I think MLB wanted to guarantee that kind of a day every year, regardless of how the regular season finished or the rest of the postseason unfolded.

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How do they not deserve to be in? Remember all those years the AL East 2nd and 3rd place teams won more games than the AL West and AL Central division winner? Was that "fair" to them?

 

Frankly, all 30 teams should be in the 2nd season, imo. With lots of byes and short series to start. That would be exciting and entertaining for EVERY market.

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One thing I don't like about the playoffs is that they stretch on too long, you're playing the world series in November. Really? In Minnesota?? Do you like seeing baseball played when you can see the players breath or you have snowflakes coming down?? I don't. To top it off they play all the games at night when its in the 30's when they could play during the day and it might be 45 and sunny.

The 1991 World Series ended on October 27, and the 2015 World Series -- the latest ever, I think, due in part to a late start to the regular season -- is scheduled to run through Nov. 4.  There isn't a meaningful difference in expected/predicted weather between those two dates.

 

Day games might be nice, especially on weekends, although I admit it would be harder for me to watch them on TV.  I honestly don't care about the temperature, though -- it's more baseball!

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This is my pet peeve too.  I understand TV contracts and that whole mess but I hate the predetermined schedule.  I am trying to remember what year it was but both teams won the LCS in 4 or 5 games and it was a week before the WS started.  In baseball terms, that is too long of a break.

I am sure TV has a hand in it, but having a predetermined schedule is actually beneficial to everybody.  (Imagine how hard it is to arrange staff to work in the stadium when every future game could occur on one of 4 possible dates, and you won't know which date until maybe 1-2 days beforehand.)

 

It's not new to baseball either -- looking all the way back to 1969, the first year of divisional play, the World Series started 5 days after the conclusion of both LCS's (which were both sweeps).  The long layoffs are potentially multiplied with longer playoffs, but there really isn't a practical way to do it otherwise.

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I am sure TV has a hand in it, but having a predetermined schedule is actually beneficial to everybody.  (Imagine how hard it is to arrange staff to work in the stadium when every future game could occur on one of 4 possible dates, and you won't know which date until maybe 1-2 days beforehand.)

 

It's not new to baseball either -- looking all the way back to 1969, the first year of divisional play, the World Series started 5 days after the conclusion of both LCS's (which were both sweeps).  The long layoffs are potentially multiplied with longer playoffs, but there really isn't a practical way to do it otherwise.

 

Correct, it is about predictability for everyone involved, not just tv.

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