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GM Meetings: Buena Vista Toward Inevitable
Posted By Christopher Rowe On Nov 19 2010 @ 12:21 pm In MLB | 3 Comments
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 in Orlando, FL. Baseball’s labor contract runs to December 2011, so 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, who recently stepped down from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Assumedly, the proposal includes two wild-card teams in each league, and those wild-card teams would meet in a Best of 5 head-to-head series to determine which advances to division series with the three first-place teams in each league. Presumably this would take a week following the end of the 162 game regular season and would push the World Series one week further – completely into November.
“I think it’s definitely worth looking at. I have no problem with that,” Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner said. There seems to be reasonable support among owners for this additional revenue-generating venture. When the wildcard and NLDS was introduced in 1995 baseball purists were shouted down by greedy team owners who saw the profit value. This also was the general consensus in 1969 when the LCS was introduced among divisional play. Some would have the new round be best-of-three, and others would have it as a one-game winner-take-all. The mechanics  and logistics appear to be at issue more than the concept of playoff expansion.
“I pretty much know where all the constituencies are now,” Selig said. “Eight is a very fair number of playoff teams – but so is 10.” Before leaving the meeting, Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan agreed with the premise that the extra round of playoffs was beneficial.
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, ensuring an all-November World Series.
Selig’s committee also will discuss whether to expand video review of umpires’ calls, which began in August 2008. Its use has been thus far 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 of replay 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.”
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 7½-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.”
Selig also said:
-Baseball’s revenue will total nearly $7 billion this year, a record.
-He was declining comment on Anheuser-Busch’s lawsuit against the sport, which accuses MLB of improperly trying to back out of an April agreement to extend the company’s exclusive sponsorship deal.
It is naiveté to think that MLB owners care about anything so much as they care about revenue. It is equally foolhardy to think that MLB doesn’t look at the NHL, NFL and NBA and realize that more playoffs generate more revenue. Does anyone care about the integrity of the baseball regular season? The NFL season is 16 games. NBA and NHL are 82 games. MLB plays a 6-month, 162 game schedule to determine the best teams. In the 41 seasons of the LCS Era and the 16 seasons of the Wildcard/LDS Era, how many times have the two best teams squared off in the World Series? How many times have the teams with the best record faced one another in the League Championship Series? Another round of playoffs simply waters down the pool of playoff teams, negates the importance of the 162-game season and makes it possible for a team to simply “get into the tournament” and get hot in October. I’m not averse to the best teams being determined on the field of play, but after these teams play a 162-game schedule, haven’t we done that? Now we are asking these teams to play 162 games to get to the postseason and then need to win another 11 games in order to be crowned champions. Are the San Francisco Giants the best team in Major League Baseball for 2010? No but they won the World Series and to do so they beat the Texas Rangers. The best teams were the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins, who had the best regular season records. San Francisco beat the Phillies in the NLCS. The next-best record belonged to the New York Yankees, who lost to Texas in the ALCS. Maybe it is just as well. If Philadelphia and Minnesota had made the World Series it would have been in November – possibly in a driving blizzard. Maybe MLB can work out a deal with the NFL to balance the Thanksgiving Day television coverage?
Morning: Thanksgiving Day Parade
Noon: World Series
3 PM – NFL Game # 1 6PM-NFL Game #2 8 PM – NFL Game #3
What Can Be Done???
Start the regular season two weeks earlier. Have every team play Sunday doubleheaders per month which offers either a Thursday or Monday off day. Do not under any circumstances reduce the number of regular season games! However, maintaining the 162-game schedule with doubleheaders and trading two weeks of Grapefruit League and Cactus League games for meaningful games would help. Finally, TV networks cannot be permitted to insert off days in the postseason to accomodate their TV schedule. Maybe this will bring the World Series back into October even if Com-MESS-ioner Selig and Friends insist on trying to ruin the game.
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