SAN FRANCISCO — Major League Baseball’s playoffs could be expanding in two years.
The new head of the players’ union says his members are open to adding more wild-card teams for 2012 and possibly extending the division series to a best-of-seven.
Union head Michael Weiner says it’s also possible players would agree to cutting the regular season from 162 games, but that’s more problematic because it would cost teams revenue.
“There is sentiment among a substantial segment of the players to consider expanding the playoffs,” Weiner said on Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Eight of 30 teams make the MLB playoffs under the format that began in 1995.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig appears to be increasingly in favor of proposing more playoff teams during collective bargaining with the union next year, which will determine the postseason format for 2012 and beyond.
“We have less teams than any other sport,” he said last month. “We certainly haven’t abused anything.”
In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 teams advance to the postseason.
The first-round series have been best-of-five since they began. It’s possible they could follow the path of the league championship series, which began as best-of-five in 1969, then expanded to best-of-seven in 1985.
“There are some players who have expressed an interest in that, as well,” Weiner said. “I think we can have a very healthy discussion with the commissioner’s office when bargaining begins about these issues.”
Bargaining is likely to start in the first half of the year on the labor contract to replace the one expiring on Dec. 11, 2011.
The regular season expanded from 154 games to 162 in the American League in 1961 and the National League a year later, when each of those circuits went from eight to 10 teams.
“Certainly some of the players have said either we should shorten the regular season because the regular season’s too long, or we should shorten the regular season to accommodate expanded postseason,” Weiner said, adding that would have “revenue implications for the industry.”
Not all players are in favor of a longer postseason.
“Personally, I like the system the way it is,” San Francisco Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand said as he prepared for the World Series opener against the Texas Rangers. “I think just the one wild card team from each league. If you’re in a division where you’ve got a team running away with it, it gives all those other teams hope of something to play for throughout the course of the season.”
Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt was concerned that adding wild-card teams or increasing the length of the division series would make a long season even longer.
“If they’re going to do that, they need to shorten the season then. That’s a lot of games and that’s a long time. Even in the playoffs now we’re going potentially to Nov. 5,” he said. “Sometimes they think we’re just robots, but you’ve got to think of potential injuries. On pitchers, that’s a lot of throwing. Position players, some play every game all year. It just takes a toll on the body. If they’re going to do that, they’ve got to think a lot about the ramifications.”