You Make the Playoffs! And You Make the Playoffs!

Since we’ve been hearing about this for months, it’s not much of a surprise, but today we’re starting to hear that the proposal from Major League Baseball about adding another wild card for each league starting this season is about to become a reality.

Ken Rosenthal:

Baseball’s playoffs will expand from eight to 10 teams, starting this season, according to major-league sources.

The sport’s new collective-bargaining agreement stipulated that additional wild cards would be added in each league no later than 2013. But commissioner Bud Selig wanted the expansion to occur immediately, and management worked with the players’ union to ensure the switch to a 10-team format this season.

The agreement on the additional wild cards is not yet final, and one source said there are “still a few loose ends” to resolve. But an announcement could occur as soon as Thursday, sources said.

2012 is somewhat of a transitional year because they’re making this change now, but not moving the Houston Astros to the American League until 2013. So for one year, we’ll have 16 NL teams fighting for what will now be 5 playoff spots, and then next year you’ll have an even 15 teams in each league. That’ll require interleague play every day, which I really don’t like.

I’m somewhat torn on the idea of adding another wild card team. The old-timer in me says that I’m not thrilled with the idea of watering down the playoffs even further, since now 30% of baseball is going to be able to claim they’re a playoff team. You can see how meaningless the regular seasons are in hockey and basketball, and I don’t want that to happen to baseball; the idea of a sport that is built over the long haul like baseball is having a team go home because of a one-game playoff each year (in the wild card round) seems kind of against the spirit of the game. Besides, you could argue, look how amazingly incredible the end of the 2011 season was. With another playoff team in each league, there’s no Red Sox collapse. There’s no Braves collapse. Each of those teams would have made the playoffs under this new system. (Though I do find the idea of a team raising a pennant celebrating how they made it as a wild card then immediately got bounced in the first game immensely entertaining.)

I’m also kind of worried about what might happen to my favorite time of the year, the July trading deadline. If there’s only 4 or 5 teams who are completely out of it by that point, then there’s a lot fewer trade options available. That could potentially either reduce the amount of trades or lessen the star power of he moves we do see. It also doesn’t help that the new CBA has largely done away with compensation picks for veteran free agents; the combination of both could really depress the market, and I would hate to see the traditional July feeding fury become a snooze.

But there are positives, too. I’m sure we all hated the idea of the wild card when it first came up back in the 90s, yet it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t led to additional interest now that an entire division isn’t screwed if one great team pulls away from the start. If 2011 might not have played out exactly as it had, there’s still the added potential for multiple teams taking that second wild card down to the final day, since it’s probably going to end up in the mess of 86-90 win teams we see each year. The final details aren’t yet out, but one item that I really do like is that i really will give a bit more of a boost to a division winner, because the two wild cards are likely to play each other in a one-game playoff and that allows the champ to rest & reset their starting rotation against an opponent that has had to claw just to get there. For those who argue that a second wild card isn’t ideal, having both wild cards be at such a disadvantage really does help soften that concern a bit.

As for how this affects the Dodgers this year… well, I’m not sure it really does that much. You could say that a team such as this – one that’s probably built for 83-86 wins, give or take – could see this as an added opportunity to get into the playoffs. Of course, every team in the league that isn’t the Mets, Astros, Pirates, or Cubs (probably) is able to say the same. You still have to be a better club than the Giants, Rockies, Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Brewers, etc, and one additional wild card isn’t going to change that. It may make things more interesting, and it may make us think they still have a chance for a few additional weeks, but when it comes down to it, either the team is good enough, or they aren’t.

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Elsewhere…

- Eric Stephen asked Don Mattingly if he had thought about hitting A.J. Ellis second in the lineup. “Not really,” replied the skipper. That’s not really in any way a surprise, I suppose.

- Steve Dilbeck voices what I’m sure many have been thinking: though it’s wonderful to have baseball back, six weeks of spring training for a team that already has 95% of its roster set is somewhat hard to get excited for.

- With the announcement that Facebook is opening up Timeline pages to brands and giving them a month to switch over, I thought I’d take the plunge and convert the MSTI page immediately. Take a look.

- And on a “site news” note, we’re approximately one month away from the launch of the new MSTI. (Yes, I’m putting this out there publicly in part to motivate myself to finish before the season.) I’ve been working on this for a while and I’m really excited by how it is turning out. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, we’ll have a sneak peek in a week or two.

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