MLB Postseason Needs to Be Shorter, Not Longer

MLB Postseason Needs to Be Shorter, Not Longer Michael Weiner, the new head of baseball’s union, says he would like to see more games added to the postseason.
A seven-game division series could be a hot topic for discussion when the MLBPA’s next collective bargaining agreement is made in 2012 (assuming, of course, that the movie was wrong and we’re all still breathing and watching baseball).

It’s hard to imagine anyone asking for more postseason games in an autumn that saw the World Series stretch into November, yet that’s exactly what the players and their association want. And they’re not alone. Last month, a baseball executive told me he’d like to see MLB add another round of games, allowing two more wild-card teams in for a short first-round series. He believed opening up the playoffs to a couple more teams would expand the playoff race to include another four or five more teams in each league (teams that would be too far out of the single wild-card race) and revitalize the game in a few more cities.

That would be a good thing, but eight is enough. The current format of six division winners and two wild-card winners is just right. Expanding the playoff pool would diminish the regular season even more, and quite possibly allow one or more sub-.500 teams into the postseason.

As for a seven-game first round, most baseball purists are actually in favor of the change. They say the five-game “short” series is an aberration that sends four teams home in the blink of an eye.

Look at the Red Sox this season. The joy of a 95-win season and a return to the playoffs was wiped away in 72 hours and three quick losses to the Angels.

While not many around here enjoyed the experience, that is exactly what I like about the five-game ALDS. It is a perfect way to kick off the postseason each October. The extreme pressure of needing three wins — or needing to avoid three losses — brings the best (and worst) out of players and brings fans to the edge of their seats.

The teams that survive the best-of-five get to catch their breath before digging into a longer, more grueling series that will determine who goes to the World Series. It’s a good system.

What’s wrong with the postseason right now is that it lasts too long. There are just too many days off in the postseason. Four off days were added two years ago for the benefit of television. Those off days, combined with a longer break before the start of the first round, led to long stretches of teams sitting idle.

The 2009 postseason lasted a full month from the end of the regular season. Thirty-one days for teams to play a maximum of 19 games. Of course, no one actually played that many games. The Yankees and Phillies played a total of 15 games apiece — meaning they had more days off than game days.

Keep the five-game division series as is, but start the postseason on the first Tuesday of October. Get rid of off days except for travel days. Plan for no more than one day off between the final game of a series and the start of the next.

The beauty of baseball is that it is played out on a nightly stage. Fans are used to following their team each day during the marathon of the regular season. The postseason is the worst time to take that away from fans — and from the players who are used to the routine of game day.

Taking away days off in October is the way to make the postseason better. Adding games, or teams, to the postseason is not.

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