MLB Should Let Teams Manufacture Excitement, Not Changes in Playoff Formats
There is no way that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig can spin this one. The 2012 post season and World Series were a dud. Despite adding a fifth playoff team and extra game, MLB could not generate the excitement the fans felt in 2011. Maybe it is because they tried to manufacture it artificially.
When Selig saw the excitement generated by two wildcard races that came down to their final days in 2011, he decided to add an extra wildcard team. Instead of having two teams play each other to settle a tie, why not let a fifth team in and play one game for the right to advance? If the fans enjoy the extra game so much, then we will give it to them was his line of thinking.
So the playoffs were expanded during the offseason. This led to more teams in contention in September, but by the end of the season it was pretty clear who was going to the playoffs. There was little or no drama in the final weeks of 2012.
In 2011, there was drama through the whole month of September. The old format gave us a National League wildcard race between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. Atlanta imploded and St. Louis overtook them to win it. There was absolutely no drama in 2012 as both teams made it in and the Cardinals won the playoff in Atlanta, 6-3.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox blew a huge lead and lost out to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. This season, the Texas Rangers imploded and were caught by the Oakland Athletics, who won the West. The Rangers had to play the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff and lost.
The irony of this is that Baltimore and Texas finished with identical records. They would have had to play anyway. If Selig had not added another playoff team, there would have been even more pressure on Texas and Oakland to win with Baltimore breathing down their necks. Knowing that they would both still make the playoffs took away much of the urgency for Oakland and Texas.
As for the rest of the post season, one could make a case that the divisional round had some excitement as each series went the distance, but where was the signature moment? Maybe it was the Washington Nationals blowing a six run lead in game five to the Cardinals. Most of the first round was about teams losing instead of winning.
In the championship series, the Detroit Tigers swept the New York Yankees in four snoozers to win the AL pennant. The San Francisco Giants came from down 3-1 to beat St. Louis as the Cardinals’ bats went silent in the final games of their best of seven series. Then we got a dud of a World Series as San Francisco swept Detroit faster than you can even say sweep.
Not every post season brings great drama. The new formant can not be totally blamed for a forgettable playoff and World Series. However, in years past, the race for a wildcard or division was enough to get people excited over baseball. It did not have to be manufactured by adding another playoff team.
The idea of a fifth playoff team took away a lot of drama this season. The post season did not give us much more than Pablo Sandoval and his three home runs in game one of the World Series.
It’s sad to say, but the 2012 baseball season went out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Maybe it was because Selig tried to manufacture excitement instead of just letting it happen naturally.