Scott Stinson: Major League Baseball tempers the excitement of September

They’ve added a third wild card team to post-season in every league, and the effect has been to make potential playoff teams clear for weeks now.

Article content

With NHL training camps underway, let me take a moment to say something that isn’t often said about these parts: Good job, Gary Bateman.

Ad 2

Article content

This isn’t an endorsement of anything the NHL commissioner has done lately, mind you, like logging off on the Arizona Coyotes’ plan to play home games at their funny little college stadium—named, frankly, the Mullett Arena—as they continue their endless quest for a desert home. At this point, the Coyotes could announce plans to play at the Sedona fairgrounds and Bettman would announce it was a great sign of hockey’s future in Arizona.

Article content

But Bettman deserves a standing ovation though for an often-overlooked reason: The NHL, bless him, hasn’t expanded its playoffs. It has had 16 teams in a playoff tournament since the 1979-80 season, having absorbed four WHA franchises, and has remained at that number ever since. Even as the league grew from 21 to 32 teams, only 16 of them qualified to advance to the Stanley Cup.

Advertising 3

Article content

The NHL is operating against current trends, with other leagues going the other way in pursuit of a significant profit from increased television revenue. The National Football League added an additional wild card position for 2020, resulting in a playoff appearance for the Chicago Bears 8-8 and last year’s Philadelphia Eagles, who went 9-8. The National Basketball Association added a playoff tournament two years ago, and so far it’s been mostly notable for pulling teams that were trying to lose in the playoffs mix.

Which brings us to the excitement of the September baseball races, which… wait, wait, it didn’t actually happen. Major League Baseball has added a third wild card team to the post-season in each league for 2022, and the effect has been to make potential playoff teams clear for weeks now. With two weeks left in the regular season, two weeks have historically been a high drama for baseball, with every game for some teams filled with major bets, all that’s left to sort it out are the preliminary seeds.

Advertising 4

Article content

In the American League, Houston, New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Tampa and Seattle entered. A dizzying meltdown over the last 12 games for one of the last three teams could bring the brave Baltimore Orioles back in, but they’ll have to do it. be a collapse of historical proportions. Prediction models give Baltimore about a 5% chance of achieving this. If you’re feeling lucky, the O’s are currently 280 to 1 to win the MLS.

In the National League, there is at least one playoff spot that is subject to a chase. Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and St. Louis have always been headed into the postseason, but Philadelphia, San Diego and Milwaukee are all playing their last wild card slots. Even there, the Brewers are back 2.5 games from the Phillies heading into the weekend and need a lot of help just to keep the race alive in the final week of the season.

Advertising 5

Article content

Without the extra spot, the fights in each league would be something completely different. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Mariners won’t be fighting for positions in the supplement, but for a chance to keep their seasons alive, there are three teams working on two positions. There is certainly value in trying to get the first wild card slot, as the Jays hope they do, to gain the home court advantage for the first round of playoffs, but that’s not the same as the risk of throwing out a playoff. I’ll save you all the math, but the 2022 regular season has been the least important, in terms of games that have a huge impact on a team’s chances in the post-season, since the addition of the second wild card team a decade ago.

That was always the question when MLB decided to go from 10 to 12 teams in the playoffs, and it should be noted here that the owners wanted to go to 14: Will the expanded postseason take some of the juice out of the regular season? It’s too early to make that call in the broadest sense, but it certainly is this season. The Toronto Blue Jays have tens of thousands of unsold tickets for a series against the Yankees starting Monday, which should be in part because of the games’ relatively low stakes.

Advertising 6

Article content

You don’t have to be sad about the days of baggy uniforms and grainy black and white shots to remember the time when the September playoff chases were essential to baseball. The teams played nearly every day for five months, filtering the good from the bad, and then the best eventually making it to the playoffs. Today, MLB, which has now expanded its playing field three times since the mid-1990s, has eased the excitement of September in order to drum up more games in October. He’s also increased the chances of a mediocre team reaching the World Championships over a team that has proven strong on the 162-game schedule, which should drive front office staff crazy. The whole point of baseball is that a long season smooths out the randomness and identifies the best teams – now 12 of them will be thrown into the playoff mixer with all the uncertainty a short streak can bring.

At least, that is until the next round of bargaining action comes along, and MLB will be looking to expand the playoff field once again.

Postmedia News

sstinson@postmedia.com

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis. Care bet? Head over to the sports betting section for news and odds.

Ads

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining an active and civil forum for discussion and encouraging all readers to share their opinions on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour to be moderated before they appear on the Site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email if you receive a response to your comment, if there’s an update to a comment thread you’re following or if it’s a comment follower user. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: