Just when you thought MLB couldn’t dilute its championship any more, Bug Selig, the commissioner who promised to retire years ago, brings the news that baseball will add a second wild-card team this year.
Now an even less-qualified team gets to enter the postseason “tournament,” which is really what MLB’s playoffs have become. It’s possible now that the World Series will become a matchup of a strongly qualified team (e.g., division winner) vs. a second-tier second-place team, or worse yet, a matchup of two second-tier second-place teams. No wonder fans are decreasingly interested in the Fall Classic.
Selig is lying (surprise, surprise) when he says that the change “increases the rewards of a division championship.” The division winners don’t get a bye or any advantage relative to how the system has been the last 17 years. Some division winner still has to play a second-place team in a short series. What’s worse is that the LDS playoff structure for 2012, in which the wild-card team hosts the first two games of a best-of-five series, will actually disadvantage the division winner. It’s shameful for Selig and others to perpetuate this bunkum.
As if it weren’t bad enough that a second-place team could vie for the sport’s championship, it’s actually now possible for a third-place team to join the tournament. But neither Selig nor any of the game’s decision makers care that they have watered down their championship series by increasingly allowed less-qualified teams access to it. They care about the short-term profit that an extra couple of playoff teams will generate.
Cardinal player rep Kyle McClellan justified the player sentiment by noting that “Players were excited about getting two more teams in the playoffs, and we don’t think it dilutes the postseason at all. If it was a choice between being that second team in the playoffs or being home, it’s an obvious choice.”
Given McClellan’s logic, it’s clear why the players will always opt for more playoff teams — and why their opinion should be considered secondary. For that matter, Bud Selig, a man financially and relationally invested in the here-and-now and insulated by a coterie of owners, is similarly short-sighted, should once and for all be removed from his post and prevented from further damaging the game. As we’ve noted before, Selig’s tinkerings may have positive impacts in the short-term, but they erode the sport’s distinctives and character in the long-run.