Over the last 15 years, Major League Baseball has done more and more to make me lose interest in the game. First it was the players strike of 1994. Then there was the addtition of wild card teams in the American and National Leagues. Then there was the lackadaisical attitude toward steroids. Don’t get me started on the price of tickets and the late starting times of post season games.
Now, MLB wants to add two more teams to its postseason. One more wild card in each league. This would expand the playoff field from eight to 10 teams. The three division winners in the East, Central and West would get a first round bye while the two wild cards would play each other in a short series or one game playoff. Then the regular four team post season as we know it would begin.
Most of the people that I’ve heard from on radio, television and in print like the idea. They say that it would make the end of the regular season more meaningful for everyone and allow teams who are in tough divisions and may not have the resources to compete a chance to make the post season. And it would reward teams who win their divisions by giving them more favorable matchups.
I, for one, don’t like it. I didn’t like the original wild card playoff format (and still don’t) and don’t like this idea at all. Of course, I have never been much for playoff expansion in any sport whether it be pro football, basketball and hockey or college basketball. I would cut the playoff field in half for all of them, but football. All of them allow mediocre teams to make it to the post season which I don’t like. That’s just me. But I know that sports is a business and the more fan interest can be kept up the more revenue generated.
The difference between why these leagues add post season teams and what major league baseball is doing is this. The other leagues and college basketball do it knowing that they are going to share much of the revenue equally. Also the NFL, NBA and NHL all have salary cap limits on how much their teams can spend on players thus creating as much competitive balance as they can.
Baseball, on the other hand, does not share revenues the same way as the others. Their small market teams get money from the big markets. This is in hopes that the small market teams use the money to help keep their best players and become or stay competitive. Nevermind the fact that without a salary cap no amount of money given to these small markets will equal what the big markets can spend on players. And a lot of the small market teams don’t use the money for player payroll anyway.
So with no salary cap and unequal revenue sharing, major league baseball knows that it’s small market teams will never be competitive over a long period of time as the big markets. The best that they can hope for is a year here and there where they can make a championship run before watching all of their players leave in free agency. Like the Florida Marlins of 1997 and 2003.
How do they keep these teams relevant? By adding another post season team in each league of course. If you can’t beat mediocrity than why not join it? Who cares if it devalues the 162 game schedule even more? All that matters is that more teams have a chance to make the post season which will bring more revenue in September. And it will be more “fair” for these small market teams that can’t compete.
First, let me start with the revenue sharing. We pretty much know it’s not coming any time soon if it wasn’t negotiated during the strike of 1994. Not the way that the NFL, NHL and NBA do it. The big market tax is here for a while. And baseball really doesn’t care, because their lifeblood right now are the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. As long as one or both of these teams makes the postseason everyone will be happy. With two new wildcards the chances of them both making it increases. And the small maket teams don’t mind sponging off of them.
Now, we get to a salary cap. Once again, it ‘s not happening anytime soon. The major league baseball player’s union is the strongest in all of sports. They would not go for a salary cap without another strike and the industry cannot afford that. The players want the opportunity to make money and if it means playing for the big market teams so be it. Thus the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” widens.
What baseball should really do to create competitive balance without a salary cap is contract by six teams. Go from 30 to 24. This has nothing to do with the player pool. In the global world that we live in today the talent pool is there. Instead, it has everything to do with fan interest and the number of people who can run a franchise. There are not 30 strong fan bases in major league baseball. And there are not 30 good front office staffs. So I would drop both Florida teams and maybe Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland and Milwaukee.
Contraction is not happening anytime soon. If the Montreal Expos weren’t contracted and moved to Washington D.C. (which was the last place MLB wanted them to move) than no one is going to fold.
Thus, we get ways to put more teams in the playoffs instead of creating competitive balance. Let the mediocre small markets get a chance at the post season by adding another seat at the table. It’s the ony “fair” thing to do.
Since when has baseball cared about “fair?” If they want to talk fair let’s get to what fair should really be.
How about being fair to us fans and lowering ticket prices? There is no regular season baseball game in the world worth the money that it costs for a ticket. Or postseason for that matter.
How about being fair to us fans and giving us a scheduled doubleheader from time to time? If your going to charge us two weeks worth of groceries to take a family of four to a game than why not give us two to watch?
How about being fair to us fans by lowering the price of concessions? I’m tired of sneaking food and drink into the games. I want to buy a hot dog, peanuts and a soda. But not at those prices.
How about being fair to us fans by speeding the game up? Why is it that the pitcher, batter and umpire are all ready and I look into some luxury box only to see one more minute of commercials on television?
How about a little fairness for us fans? And more excellence in the postseason.
Don’t tell me that I should care whether a team or player gets a fair shake when it comes to getting a chance to play in the post season. Life isn’t fair so why should baseball be any different?
I don’t begrudge them for it, but to me every player in major league baseball is treated fairly when they get their weekly paycheck.