Yet again, Major League Baseball (MLB) has resorted to gimmicks by which to alter post-season play. If MLB wants each league’s playoffs to include seven teams, then dividing teams into divisions is itself a gimmick, and it reduces the chances that fans will at least get to see the seven best teams in each league. Furthermore, the idea that certain teams will get to pick who they will play in the opening round of the post-season is worse than a gimmick—it’s a boring gimmick. At least with the NCAA tournament selection shows, we, the audience, cannot be sure exactly which teams will be selected. Baseball fans will already know who will be playing, and there would be about as much suspense in the MLB Selection Show (or whatever its title may be) as there would be in watching a rerun of Gilligan’s Island. (If you were wondering, they ain’t getting off the island.)
If MLB wants to revamp the post-season in a meaningful way that will truly increase excitement, and by extension, television ratings, then model the post-season on the College World Series. The concept is simple: Divide MLB into Eastern and Western Leagues. Each team plays every other team in its league 11 times for a 154-game schedule. Just eliminate a previously-tried gimmick of interleague play, a gimmick that has run its course. The top 8 teams in each league then play a double elimination tournament. Rob Manfred, you want teams to pick their opponents? How about a tournament in which you won’t even know who your opponent will be until all games are completed on a given day! A city in each league could host this tournament on a rotating basis a lá the All-Star Game. Perhaps, even two ballparks could be used, e.g. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium or Nationals Park and Camden Yards.
The winners of each League Tournament will play each other in a traditional home and home World Series.
I’ve been espousing this idea since 2011, writing at that time,
Football games are appealing not only to fans, but to the average television viewer because they are set pieces, self-contained dramas, like the movie of the week. A World Series tournament would be baseball’s version of the mini-series. You have to tune in every night (and day) because you don’t want to miss any of the twists and turns, which you can track over the course of 10 days. The average viewer won’t stay tuned for twists and turns that take 30 days to unfold and include multiple travel days and cutaway shots of fans in Northern ballparks whose gloves are fur-lined, rather than oiled and laced. [And Rob, they haven’t.] This latter element is underappreciated, for as any writer knows, the setting does contribute to the mood of the story. (Hence, Dostoevsky never set one of his novels in Miami.) The World Series then becomes Part II of the mini-series, and the entire event is concluded in three weeks.
Rob Manfred is so worried about attracting new fans that he forgets about his long-time fans. He’s like the satellite television company that offers a great deal to new subscribers, but offers nothing to the people who have subscribed for years. You know, Rob, your gimmickry might result in a net loss of fans, but I might point out to you that the College World Series is gaining in popularity and I am convinced that a large part of the reason is the format.
Rob, don’t give us another gimmick. We’re sick of blue bats, pink gloves, nickname jerseys, Ugly Uniform Day (or is that something else that just seems like Ugly Uniform Day?) You want to revamp the post-season? Give us something new to professional baseball that already has appeal on the college level. Give us League Tournaments.