The Major League Baseball playoffs, with only 8 total teams, are the most elite playoffs in American sports. If a team has earned a spot in them, then it has certainly done something special....right? Well, not necessarily. While most teams that make the playoffs deserve it, over the last two years, there has been an annoying trend of a team making the playoffs despite having the fifth best record in its respective league. It's no secret that I am talking about the National League Central. This may come off as anti-Central sentiment, as I do hate the Cubs and dislike the Astros; but make no mistake, if this were happening in any division, I'd be upset. Last year, the Cardinals got into the playoffs by winning the Central despite having a record that was a game and a half worse than the playoff-less Phillies. Yes, they went on to win the World Series but, as we all know, the playoffs are more of a crapshoot and are not always about the best team winning, but the hottest. The Cardinals got lucky and hot at the right time. Still, they should not have been near the playoffs. This year, the Cubs are getting in by the same virtue. The Mets and the Padres are both missing the playoffs despite having much better records than the Cubs and being arguably much better teams. In 2005, the San Diego Padres got into the playoffs by winning the NL West despite having the 7th best record in the National League. I think you see the point, folks. There needs to be a change in the playoff system. While this "phenomenon" doesn't happen too much, it happens enough to make me want change.
The first step I would take would be to get rid of both the AL and NL Central and put them into the East and West Divisions. So, the divisions would look like this:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
New York Mets
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Now that there is no Central Division, one may assume that we would go back to only two playoff teams but that is not the case. What I propose instead is that the two division winners make the playoffs with two "wildcard" teams making it. However, these wildcard teams won't be the second place finishers in both divisions. They will be the two teams with the best records. Therefore, one division could possibly have three teams in the playoffs. No, that is not a concern of mine. I don't care if one division is stacked with playoff teams; if they are the best teams, they deserve to be in the playoffs. We need to stop punishing certain teams and rewarding other teams for the divisions in which they play. So, let us take this year's playoffs and see how they would've broken down in my system.
In the American League, all four playoff teams in now would be in under my system; there would just be three from the East (Boston, New York, Cleveland) and one from the West (Anaheim). The fun comes in when we look at the National League. Here's my system's version of the 2007 NL Playoffs:(X = clinched playoff spot)
NL East NL West (excluding SD/COL playoff)
New York-88-74 Colorado-89-73X
Atlanta-84-78 San Diego-89-73X
Washington-73-89 Los Angeles-82-80
Florida-71-91 Saint Louis-78-84
Here we see that the Cubs miss the playoffs and both the Padres and Rockies made the playoffs. Yes we would have one division with three teams and one in division playoff series but I honestly don't care. The best teams are in the playoffs and that is the point. It's better baseball, people. Would I be annoyed if this system were implemented and my beloved Yankees missed the playoffs because if it? Temporarily, yes I would be. However, once I realized that the most deserving teams made the playoffs, my grief would be alleviated.
The Major League Baseball Playoffs are incredibly elite and we must keep it that way. Another possible hindrance is the travel aspect. The teams in the Central would have to travel to the West much more than the teams in the East and vice versa-i.e. Kansas City to Anaheim is much farther than New York to Detroit. However, I think the schedule makers could work this out. Maybe I'm putting too much faith in these people (see: home games for East Coast teams in April) but I think they could get it done.
All I want is for the best of the best to make the Major League Playoffs. I don't want teams barely above .500 squeaking in like in the NFL and NBA Playoffs. The Wildcard has been a wonderful thing for baseball and I want to keep it going. It is the division system that needs a tweaking. Please, Mr. Selig, listen to this blog.