The Dan Plan

I am off to Citi Field. Reader Dan passed along this idea for reconfiguring the MLB playoff system, and I like it better than most I’ve seen proposed. He’s cool with me re-posting it here, so what follows is Dan’s plan. What say you, The Internet?

I offer the following as a suggestion for “fixing” the baseball playoffs, which, in my mind, have three key problems:

1. The cheapening of the division title — Winning the division used to be a championship of sorts, in and of itself. Now it is a mere footnote on a season, because of the wild card (and, of course, because one division actually has only four teams).

2. The inequity of scheduling for wild card competitors — Teams in tough divisions, like the Blue Jays, have an inherent disadvantage when compared to teams in easier divisions, like the Angels. Competition for playoff spots should be on equal terms, if at all possible.

3. The “early coasting period” for elite teams – Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are currently coasting to the playoffs, because of the division/wild-card model. In a better system, the two would still be battling for position.

I offer the following proposal:

1. Switch the Arizona Diamondbacks to the American League, and the Tampa Bay Rays to the National League.

2. Realign the league as follows:

NL East – Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Rays
NL West – Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals

AL East – Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, White Sox, Indians, Tigers
AL West – A’s, Mariners, Rangers, Angels, Royals, Twins, Diamondbacks

3. Division winners get into the playoffs. The second and third place teams in each division play each other in a one-game playoff in the home stadium of the second place team. Winner goes to the playoffs; loser goes home. This gives you four elimination games per season. I agree with Joe Maddon’s objections to the concept of a one-game play-in — it certainly is not a fair approximation of the marathon that is a baseball season. It is the best method, though, because it reestablishes the importance and significance of the division title.

This system addresses the major problems of the current system. You can now have a fair unbalanced schedule, because teams only compete for playoff berths against their own divisions.

As far as objections, the Rays would probably not be happy to lose the nine sellouts to the Yankees, but they would gain a potential revenue stream by increasing their playoff odds as they move to the easier league. The Diamondbacks would be moving to the tougher league, but the AL West is no better than the NL West, and does not have the financial imbalance issues of the AL East.

This system also ensures that the Orioles and Blue Jays, the two teams most disadvantaged by the current system, always have a legitimate chance to get into the playoffs (as the #3 team in the AL East).

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