Sunday, October 7, 2012

Solutions for a More Sensible MLB Season, Playoffs

It's a good thing the visiting teams, Baltimore and St. Louis, won their Wildcard one-off playoff games. It would have been pretty cruddy for fans to not get a chance to see their teams play at home at least one time in the postseason.

Baltimore Oriole fans would have been especially livid.  This is their first time in the playoffs in more than a decade.

Major League Baseball is going to have to find the sense to make their regular season matter more while elongating their postseason.  This is best done by shortening the regular season to provide the time for additional postseason games.

MLB needs more suspense for fans of teams who haven't smelled the postseason in forever.  Fans in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and others have gone past the feeling of being neglected.  Sports fans are beginning to ignore baseball completely after a certain point in the season.

For baseball to stay relative for a long period of time in the U.S. sports calendar, there needs to be more opportunity for teams to get into the postseason and more possibility for surprises in the playoffs.

There have been plenty of Wildcard teams making the upsets happen and getting to the World Series since the Wildcard came into existence, but more interesting postseason match-ups are necessary to create more rivalries and contemporary nostalgia.

Baseball is going against the American sports grain.  The stadiums are too big, major portions of the regular season are useless and not enough teams are getting into the playoffs.

The NBA Playoffs is what most forces MLB's hand.  The NBA Playoffs are successful.  It may take a long time to complete, but the format has worked to keep sports fans engaged and has create a marketing windfall.

The NBA's regular season is half the amount of games.  An 82 game regular NBA season ends up with 16 teams and best of seven from the first round through the Finals.  MLB has twice the amount of regular season games (162) and has 10 playoff teams with best of one, best of five and then best of 7 in the semis and World Series.

Baseball fans are getting swindled.  Too many games that don't matter, not enough of ones that do matter and not enough playoff teams to make it more interesting.

MLB has to copy the NBA format and find a way to cap the regular season with less games.  Possibly, 128 games is enough.  Best of seven from first round to the World Series in a 16-team tournament is the solution to growing support of baseball among sports fans.  A one seed plays an eight seed, two plays seven, three plays six and four plays five.

If MLB copies the NBA format for postseason, it should probably copy the Eastern versus Western Conference league format, as well.  Interleague can still be played the same, but it won't have to be American versus National.  The Designated Hitter rule can alternate between Conferences, from year to year.

With less games, it could be that players are more apt to stay healthy and stick with their teams longer.  Players jumping from team to team has created chaos over the years and very little loyalty.

These changes are big changes to the game, but necessary ones, for the game to thrive.  The sports fan has a lot more going on than they used to and baseball's priority among sports fans has declined over the years.  MLB needs to create more demand and more drama.  What happened between Texas and St. Louis last year, one strike away, needs to happen more often throughout the postseason.

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