ORLANDO, Fla. — Commissioner Bud Selig‘s plan to expand baseball’s playoffs to 10 teams seemed inevitable after little to no opposition emerged during meetings this week with owners and general managers.
Because baseball’s labor contract runs to December 2011, the extra round of playoffs is not likely to start until 2012.
Selig said his special 14-man committee will discuss adding two wild-card teams when it meets Dec. 7 during the winter meetings in nearby Lake Buena Vista.
“We will move ahead, and move ahead pretty quickly,” Selig said Thursday after three days of meetings concluded.
A change would have to be approved by owners, who next meet Jan. 12-13 in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and by the players’ association, which has said it is open to the extra round. The additional games also would have to be sold to baseball’s national television partners and slotted into a crowded schedule that already has pushed the World Series into November in the past two years.
“I’m not going to rule out anything,” Selig said. “We’ll just proceed and whatever we decide, then we’ll just see how fast we can get it done. Once we pass something, I’m always anxious to get it done.”
Selig’s committee includes managers Tony La Russa, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia, and former manager Joe Torre.
There would be two wild-card teams in each league, and the wild-card teams would meet to determine which advances to the division series with the three first-place teams in each league.
“I think it’s definitely worth looking at. I have no problem with that,” Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner said.
Some would have the new round be best-of-three, and others would have it as a one-game winner-take-all. The mechanics appear to be at issue more than the concept.
“I pretty much know where all the constituencies are now,” Selig said. “Eight is a very fair number but so is 10.”
Before leaving the meeting, Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan agreed with the premise that the extra round of playoffs was more a matter of how than if.
“I think that’s right,” he said.
Baseball doubled its postseason teams to four in 1969 and again to eight in 1995, a year later than intended because of a players’ strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series. The vote to first add wild cards took place in September 1993.
“I got ripped and torn apart, and it was pretty bad,” Selig said. “If I had defiled motherhood I don’t think I could have gotten ripped any more than I did. But now it’s fascinating to me. Now they not only like it so much, they want more of it.”
The regular-season schedule will almost certainly not be reduced from 162 games.
“There’s not much interest in that,” he said.
Selig’s committee also will discuss whether to expand video review of umpires’ calls, which began in August 2008. Its use has been limited to whether potential home runs went over fences and were fair or foul.
“It doesn’t hurt to expand it some and have it for a few other things, like plays at first base,” Steinbrenner said. “I’ve always been for as much instant replay as you can get in a sport. The NFL, at least, has that right.”
Selig has said he’s against an expansion but willing to consider it.
“There are opinions everywhere on that,” he said. “Managers have opinions. General managers have opinions. Owners have opinions. I want to hear them all and look at them.”
A consensus also appeared to have developed to propose a slotting system for amateur draft picks and possibly a worldwide draft when collective bargaining begins next year.
While there is a sense the NFL, the NBA and the NHL could be headed for labor strife, baseball players and owners anticipate stoppage-free bargaining. Baseball hasn’t had a strike or lockout since the 7 1/2-month walkout in 1994-95, and Selig termed current dealings with the union “a constructive relationship.”
“Nobody ever could have dreamed we’d have 16 years of labor peace,” Selig said. “In American labor history, as I someday will say if I ever get around to writing my book, it probably was as bad a relationship as ever existed.”