"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
- Mahatma Gandhi
Article by Jerry Keys
"It is best for the fans."
"It will bring more excitement to baseball."
"It would help to achieve a competitive balance."
Those are quotes from the executives at MLB headquarters. These are the reasons why they plan to expand the playoffs to ten teams (currently eight) by next year. I do not think you need to have a degree in economics to understand the reasoning behind this…revenue stream. With more gate receipts, TV revenue, memorabilia sales, and the MLB channel will certainly line someone's pocket. More play-off teams…doesn't it just make you go 'woo-hoo' out loud? Here's a little story about the expanded playoffs and MLB executives should consider it, but I'm sure they won't; it doesn't fatten their wallets nor am I a major league club owner. I'm just a throwback fan, a fan who still enjoys baseball, but in the past, when things made sense (Congress you hearing this???).
Once upon a time there were two leagues in the AL, the East and West. Each had seven teams. In 1983, five AL East teams won at least 87 games. The second place team in the AL West, they won 79 (the sixth team in the East won 78). For most of the 1980's, the East was D-I, as the West was D-II. Was there an unbalanced league? Yes, it was, but only for a short time. In fact the AL teams in the World Series from 1987-91, were Minnesota and Oakland; both AL West teams. And from 1981-86, a different team won the AL East; Yankees, Brewers, Orioles, Tigers, Blue Jays, Red Sox. The 1985 World Series champs, Kansas City, would have placed third if they were in the East. The 1987 champs, the Twins, would have placed fifth. Didn't matter though, they were the teams who took home the trophy.
The AL East today is top dog, has been for several years; with New York, Boston and Tampa perennial contenders. One of the teams is always left out in the cold during the playoffs. With five playoff slots, one division could send three teams. Or you could have one of those teams enter a down year and fans can watch two teams barely over .500 fight for that spot (woo-hoo). The post-season is a reward for the best teams during the regular season, unlike the NBA. Oh, will there be a 2011-12 NBA season? Back to point, even in the current system you still see teams who enter post-season with very mediocre records. The 2005 San Diego Padres won the NL West at 82-80, one game better than the last place team from the NL East. When you allow 4-5 team divisions, you sometimes get caught in bad spots (see 2010 NFC West winner, 7-9 and two teams at 10-6 did not make the play-offs).
Right now we have both wild card spots open going into the last game of the year today. Atlanta and Boston were battling for the division in mid-August and at worst, had all but wrapped up at least a wild card entry. Enter September and both teams have been in an unstoppable free fall. Each team is tied for the wild card spot going into the last game of the regular season (Tampa and St. Louis are the teams who came to life in September). A fifth playoff team would have eliminated these two down to the wire races. A race would not have been necessary if both would see post-season action. And even the 1994 expanded playoffs have robbed fans of what would have been spectacular division races between the Yankees and Red Sox, if only one team went to the playoffs. I have to admit the 8 team play-off format did serve up some great races for the wild card but none of those can hold a candle to the last year of two-division / 2 teams advance format; the 1993 NL West division battle, won on the last day by Atlanta 104-58 and the San Francisco Giants 103-59 went home. With 10 playoff spots up for grabs, you may see a race, with the winner of the #5 spot being 82-80 or 80-82. Sorry, but the race for the #5 spot is not a pennant race, it is charity.
On a lighter note, there was speculation of the soon-to-be new ownership group of the Houston Astros being asked to move the team to the AL to balance the teams out at 15 in each league. The AL has had 14 and the NL 16 since 1998. Is it ironic the mastermind behind the baseball realignment is none other than Bud Selig? The brainchild of baseball expansion in 1993 and 1998; yet four years later spoke of contracting two teams. What is your deal with the Astros? Would it be they happen to be the team up for sale at the right time to pull off your master plan?
Houston has been in the NL since 1962. The Milwaukee Brewers were once the Seattle Pilots in 1969 and with Selig's role (not as commissioner), moved to Milwaukee a year later. The Brewers were an AL team until 1997. Selig grew up a Milwaukee Braves fan, until they moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season. Wouldn't it be a more appropriate decision to move the Brewers back to the AL? Wasn't it the Brewers who made the leagues unbalanced in the first place? Ask Bud, but you probably would not get an answer. His Brewers were in the AL West for a short time in the early 70's; maybe they would like it there this time. Selig has it wrong with additional playoff teams and trying to balance the league by forcing another team to move to the AL (instead of 'his team'). At least I am not alone; here is a link to what a couple of World Series champ Giants think.
We saw Derek Jeter cross the 3000 hits mark this year. He is currently #20 on the all-time total hits. Over the next two years we will see Jeter pass some very familiar names from just a generation ago. Hypothetically, starting Jeter at 3100 before the 2012 season and collecting 170 hits, he would pass eight players; six recent Hall members Murray, Ripken, Brett, Yount, Gwynn, and Winfield and two from the early 20th century, Paul Waner and Nap Lajoie. With another 170 in 2013, he would pass six more and stand at #6 all-time. He has an option for 2014 and could climb as high as #3 (3771) if he chooses to play after '14. Eclipsing the top hits king, Pete Rose, is out of the question but finishing at #3 behind only Rose and Ty Cobb is an accomplishment.
Jeter is a lock for the Hall and is in a similar situation Hall bound Greg Maddux and 'not so sure' Hall bound Roger Clemens were about five years ago. Everyone knew neither could pass Cy Young (511) or Walter Johnson (417). But tied for #3 on the all-time wins list were Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson at 373. Maddux needed only 19 and Clemens 20. Clemens was thought to have the best chance at this until he started pitching only half a season near the end of his career. Clemens retired after 2007 and Maddux, a year later. Sources said "Maddux was aware of this distinction, but felt it would be cheating teammates by sticking around for a record, while it is clear I am no longer at the top of my game."
Next month will cover a few other baseball topics including: 'Where will Pujols go?;' 'What happened to Ichiro?;' and a tribute to Gary Carter, who is battling four malignant brain tumors.
"The be-all and end-all of life should not be to get rich, but to enrich the world." -- B. C. Forbes