Slouching towards mediocrity

So, word has it that baseball is barreling towards an expanded playoff format in 2012, with one additional wild-card team being added from both leagues. Figures. From a Commissioner who once oversaw a tie in a baseball game, comes another creative stab at muddying up winners from losers.

I know the old cliche. Money makes the world go around. And so it is without a doubt that the primary, secondary, tertiary, heck the whole lot of reasons behind this move is to make everyone involved in baseball that much richer. And, as a free-market capitalist, I’m all for it. But, as a baseball fan, I’m not as keen on baseball joining the rest of the sports world, and well, society, in slouching towards mediocrity.

As the article notes, right now 8 out 30, or 26.7% (hey, I’m a CPA) of teams in baseball make the playoffs. In the NFL, it is 12 out of 32 (37.5%), and in the NHL and NBA, it is 16 out of 30 (53.3%). Under the new playoff format, one-third of teams in major league baseball would make the playoffs. Granted, that would still leave Major League Baseball having the most meritorious of playoffs. But just barely so. And in the process, while the sport may gain riches, it does so at the expense of diluting the reward for regular season excellence.

I recognize that sports is a play world. An escape for adults to be kids and kids, well, to still be kids. And so baseball, as an entertainment product, is charged with delivering the greatest show possible for the greatest profit possible. So, an extra round, with additional people in the stands, more eyes watching the television, means big money and happiness for the fans of two more teams each year.

But I can’t help but ask that when 1 out of every 3 teams makes the playoffs, what exactly is a playoff spot a reward for? And after you throw out quad-A teams like the Pirates and Royals, for all intents and purposes, under the new format, basically 1 out of every 2 professional baseball teams will make the playoffs.

Maybe this move was inevitable. Maybe one day all major sports will have one giant playoff where every team gets in and no one keeps score. Will everyone be richer? Yes, especially if you appreciate the yuan. But will baseball be better? I don’t think so.

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