MLB Postseason: Rob Manfred’s proposal preposterous

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02: Rob Manfred Commissioner of Major League Baseball before the American League Wild Card Playoff game at RingCentral Coliseum on October 2, 2019 in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02: Rob Manfred Commissioner of Major League Baseball before the American League Wild Card Playoff game at RingCentral Coliseum on October 2, 2019 in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

It’s saturated and competition-diluting enough as it is. The Manfred administration’s reported MLB postseason proposal could only make it more preposterous.

Once upon a time, Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson mused, in his double-negative way, “We try every way we can think of to kill this game, but for some reason nothing nobody does never hurts it.” Good thing he didn’t live on earth to see the Manfred administration, which may think the solution to baseball’s overcrowded and over-extended MLB postseason is to add to the crowd and, thus, the saturation.

Last week, I proposed what I think is a wise, sagacious, competition-restoring solution to the postseason tangle. My idea, assuming we must keep three-division leagues: Eliminate the wild cards.

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Let the division winners with the season’s best records have round-one byes. Let the other two winners in each league slug out the best-of-three division series. Let those series winners meet the bye winners in the best-of-five League Championship Series. (The way the LCS was born in the first place.) And, return the best-of-seven World Series to due primacy.

That’ll teach me.

Come Monday, the word from the New York Post was that baseball’s government, which is often only slightly less witless than government government, ponders an unwise, witless, congested, and competition-diluting-further solution to enter in 2022: Seven postseason entrants in each league, including four wild card teams, and allowing certain MLB postseason teams to (wait for it!) choose their own competition.

By the light of the Manfred administration proposal, writes the Post‘s Joel Sherman, there’s almost no point to divisions in the first place. But hear it out, if only for argument’s sake:

"“[T]he team with the best record in each league would receive a bye to avoid the wild-card round and go directly to the division series,” Sherman writes. “The two other division winners and the wild card with the next best record would each host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. So the bottom three wild cards would have no first-round home games.”"

Fancy that, if you dare. Two teams good enough to win their divisions compelled to begin their road to the Promised Land in wild card rounds, and three teams who weren’t good enough to win their divisions getting byes at home. And it gets better, if you like this sort of thing: The division winners with the second-best records among the three top kicks would get to pick their round-one opponents from among the bottom three wild cards. On Sunday night television, yet. (You just knew television considerations were more than merely analogic.)

Imagine, as Sherman does, the Yankees as the second-winningest among American League division winners, getting to pick a fight with the Red Sox as the least-winning wild card. Unless the Yankees in that instance decide it’s better to make life as simple as possible, psychologically, pick an opening opponent who isn’t their traditional, ages-old enemy, and hope like hell that someone else finds ways to knock the Red Sox out before the Yankees might have to tangle with them when it really counts.

Between that and the Sunday night television spectacular—which you might think would miss only the acrobats, the plate spinners, the comedians, the wild animal acts, and the Beatles—Sherman says this extraterrestrially egregious exercise “satisfies what the networks want which is 1) MLB postseason inventory and 2) as many clinching scenarios as possible.” All that remains missing from that rilly big shoe is Ed Sullivan’s hologram to host.

It also satisfies a baseball administration and those among the owners and the players’ union to whom the common good of the game begins with making money for it, and them. Speaking of the union, the proposition can’t even think about taking hold unless it’s bargained collectively. You guessed it: Baseball’s television deals with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting end when the current collective bargaining agreement does, next year. Send lawyers, guns, and money?

“In theory, though, additional playoff teams should provide elements that the union has been wanting,” Sherman observes. “More playoff openings would motivate more teams to try, which should mean less tanking.” Right. And, in theory, the abusive spouse really, really means to keep his promise this time, to his battered wife, that if she takes him back just this once more he’ll never-ever-ever-ever-ever! do that again.

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There do come times when even I think I should keep my big mouth shut and my big pen to myself, never mind that the Manfred administration doesn’t know me from Adam, Dunn or otherwise. And while I’m not feeling like the poor abused spouse just yet, I am feeling a little the way I’d imagine a Cordon Bleu chef might when, teaching the artistry in composition and flavor of coquilles St. Jacques, a young Julia Child composed and tasted the dish exactly as instructed—and pronounced, “It needs ketchup.”