Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fixing the System

In shocking news yesterday, the US House of Representatives said no to the proposed $700B bailout package. The markets took a huge hit -- the TSX lost about $100B on its own. Now, the system is in absolute disrepair, but I believe it can be fixed in a few easy steps.

Ya, who am I kidding, I got no idea. But I do think I have a plan to fix baseball's playoff system! Assuming that the current divisional alignment is kept, here is how I would fix it:

1. BALANCED SCHEDULES

It is shocking that the Jays can play the Sox, Yanks and Rays 19 times each, but the Angles can play the A's, Rangers and Mariners 19 times apiece, while playing for the same championship. A certain Neate Sager puts it best:

"The current setup ignores the strength-of-schedule questions entirely. It's like having a 100-metre dash where some runners only have to run 75 metres and some have to run 125 -- and no one notices."

If all 11 teams not winning their division and are pursuing the wild card, should they not have faced the same opponents the same number of times? Which relates (and leads into!) point number 2...

2. SHORTEN THE SEASON BY 6 GAMES

Get rid of Interleague. It was a novelty when it started, but it is just beyond stupid now. Why should I be more excited that the Jays are playing the Phillies than if they were playing the Tigers? Because the Jays played the Phillies in the '93 World Series? What about all the memorable playoff chases against the Tigers? If the season is 156 games long, with a balanced schedule, each AL team would play each other 12 times, 6 at home and 6 away (FWIW, this is not me complaining about the Jays being stuck in the division with 2 perennial powerhouses. We actually do pretty freaking well against them and do pretty well against the AL Central. We always get rocked by the AL West and in Interleague). This would also enable the season to end earlier. Next year's finals are scheduled to end in November! That is ridiculous.

3. MORE PLAYOFF TEAMS

I understand why the Wild Card was introduced, from a baseball perspective. The 1993 National League is the prototypical example. The Atlanta Braves won the NL West with a league best 104-58 record. By 1.0 games. The San Francisco Giants had the 2nd best record in the league (103-59)...but did not play in October. Now, the top 2 teams in each league are guaranteed to be in the playoffs, but the 4th team can be below .500.

I say add more teams to ensure that the best teams make it to the playoffs. I wouldn't go with the full-blown 16/30 teams make the playoffs that the NBA and NHL have. I would add just 1 more playoff spot, another wild card to be exact. On the day after the final day of the regular season, the 2 wild card teams would play in a one-game playoff, with the team with the higher record hosting the game. This gives greater incentive and reward to winning the division, as a few extra days to rest your pitchers are granted. This could mean more combative divisional races down the stretch, as teams would want to avoid this 1-game scenario. Also, as we have seen over the last 2 years, the 1-game playoffs that do happen can be very exciting. Both the MIN-CWS and SDP-COL games were 1 run games, and nail-bitters the entire time. Each team would be playing to live another day. Just imagine if the Jays had been in that 5th spot (it was NYY this year): We might have witnessed Roy Halladay pitching in Fenway Park with his team's season on the line.

So there is my 3-step plan. Some may say my ideas are stupid, some may say I am tinkering with a system that need not be tinkered with and some may be nodding their head in agreement. There may be other ways to make baseball better, especially shorter game times, but this cannot really be done, unless it is mandated that Roy Halladay pitch every game. And he just might be able to, he really is a horse. But I digress.

As for my playoff prediction, I gotta go with the Cubs or the Dodgers. The Cubs have been the best team all year, but a motivated Manny (looking for a 4-yr/$100MM contract) is a scary thing. The Phils need another starter to step up behind Hamels and Moyer. The Brewers are going to have to keep on relying on CC and Sheets on 3 days rest with Yovani Gallardo and Dave Bush spelling them. The White Sox are going to run out of steam and get beat by a fresher Rays squad. The Sox are going to beat the Angels, as they seemingly always do, but neither the Rays nor the Sox have the bullpen thats good enough, unless a Keith Foulke-circa '04 steps up. Screw it, I'm taking the Dodgers over the Sox, with ManRam hitting some ungodly line in the World Series.

4 comments:

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Great point on the balanced schedules, but I don't think we'll ever see it: division rivalries sell both tickets and TV ratings, especially in the big media markets in the AL and NL East. I also like the idea of shortening the season, but I'd rather see some division games get scrapped (I like interleague just for the variety of seeing different teams). More playoff teams is also a good idea, and the double wild card could work, but I'd prefer eight teams from each league a la the NHL: that way, there would be far more meaningful games in the last couple months of the season.

milway said...

Ya, I don't think we would ever actually see any of these things, unless the Yanks are held out of the playoffs for many years. 16 teams in the playoffs is too many, there is no way half of the league should be in the playoffs (even in the NHL and NBA). NFL probably has the best playoff format (4 Division Winners + 2 Wild Cards, with top 2 records getting a bye) that keeps games interesting the whole way thru. A sheer scheduling problem would also exist if there was an extra round of the playoffs inserted. The playoffs already extend until the end of October. Call me a purist, but I don't want to be watching Game 2 of the World Series (The Mid-October Classic)in November.

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