FanDuel - WFBC

October 05, 2007

The Playoffs, As We Know Them, Are Bunk: My (quixotic, admittedly) proposal for overhauling the playoff and regular season system for all of American sports. A sportsfilter column by our own chicobangs.

posted by justgary to general at 07:14 AM - 56 comments

I am totally on board with all leagues having a trophy for the best record during the regular season. I have always wondered why hockey was the only sport awarding one. As the present versions of the All-Star games bore me to death, anything that replaces them would be a welcome change.

posted by dviking at 08:58 AM on October 05

You been reading my mind again chico? Thought I told you to stay out of there. I also like the idea of relegation (I think that's the word I want) if for no other reason it would make the various minor leagues more exciting and more cities would have a chance at having a championship team.

posted by Folkways at 10:20 AM on October 05

I went into that column thinking it was going to be a bunch of poo. But I came out totally agreeing with you. (except I like "that horrible contraption". Assuming we're talking about the one on the right in the picture you linked to.) Never thought of any of this, I've only really followed North American sports -- an Amish sports fan, I suppose. But this would be wonderful. If I were charge I'd work to implement these changes.

posted by SummersEve at 10:39 AM on October 05

I stand by that. The World Series trophy is the ugliest "award" in sports. (You've just won the world series, and now you're exhausted and there's nothing in your belly but the champagne that's flying through the air all around the dressing room! So congratulations, and by the way, here, have a super-fragile upside-down chandelier with spikes sticking out of it!)

posted by chicobangs at 11:27 AM on October 05

So what you're saying is that the super-fragile chandelier-istic spikey clump's atrocious?

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 11:54 AM on October 05

Chico, I'd wholeheartedly agree with you save for one thing; unless the regular seasons are drastically shortened, you will be playing baseball into December, hockey into July, and basketball into August. If this can be done, then I'm all for a longer playoff schedule. Could it happen? See my comment about owners being amenable to the idea of losing revenue in the post concerning NHL re-organization. There is only one thing to say about the World Series Trophy: Sitting on it may be hazardous to one's health.

posted by Howard_T at 12:11 PM on October 05

The World Series trophy is the ugliest "award" in sports. I think the BCS trophy gives it a run for its money, although I'm not really sure I'd call it ugly. Maybe just "really boring". It's a piece of cut crystal shaped like a football. Whoop-de-doo. Looks like something my grandma would have in her curio cabinet, possibly filled with Hershey's kisses.

posted by LionIndex at 12:12 PM on October 05

You wouldn't be playing baseball into December. You're playing exactly the same number of games in the same amount of time, just not back-loading them and cramming the whole playoff into October (or May/June for the NHL/NBA, or whatever). Exhibitions and the like would only be happening for the teams who weren't involved. You wouldn't be making extra time for those. The season shouldn't end any later than it already does. Like I said, I don't think it's totally outlandish. I just don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.

posted by chicobangs at 12:24 PM on October 05

Also, Sousepaw for the win. Ouch.

posted by chicobangs at 12:52 PM on October 05

The thing that irks me with US sports is this "best of seven" crap in the final series. There's a reason the Superbowl is the biggest sporting event on the US calendar. It's ONE GAME. You know when you sit down, someone is going home champion. Whereas with baseball, hockey, basketball, unless it's gone to game seven, you don't sit down with that certainty.

posted by Drood at 01:01 PM on October 05

Drood, that's partly because the people who set this system up in the first place were looking to "pad out" a playoff season, so if restructuring the entire system is on the table, then we could change each series to a home-and-home, with away goals being the first tiebreaker. But taking five games per series would not go over well with the other teams. Revenue is all that matters, and North Americans are used to 7-game series now, so that's not going away any time soon. Promotion/relegation will happen long before they shorten the 7-game series. (And it's true that the AHL has a ton of teams, most of which aren't anywhere near ready for NHL play, but we're not talking about the whole league, just its top clubs. For example: the Hamilton Bulldogs are the current Calder Cup champs. You think they couldn't provide NHL-caliber crowds? The Copps Coliseum may be creaky, but you know, it's better than Pittsburgh's. For example. Or think about if the Phantoms got promoted. There'd be two NHL teams in Philadelphia? Think of the fights, on the ice and in the stands! A Philadelphia derby? Come on, again, that's an easy sell, all across the country.)

posted by chicobangs at 01:17 PM on October 05

The Crafty Sousepaw: So what you're saying is that the super-fragile chandelier-istic spikey clump's atrocious?
Post. Of. The. Week! :)

posted by hincandenza at 01:35 PM on October 05

One more thing (I know, I'm Around-the-Horning my own column here, but bear with me) - the NHL is having a few problems with attendance lately, which honestly is inevitable given the lack of national press, but in the secondary markets it's as strong as ever. They're drawing 7,000 a game in Tulsa friggin' Oklahoma for the hockey equivalent of A ball, fergodsake. There's something to work with, here.

posted by chicobangs at 01:43 PM on October 05

First of all, how anyone can not like the world series trophy is beyond me. I think the ordering of the pennants by team record each year is a great touch. Also I dont see the european system working, especially with the free agent market and players retiring A couple months later a club might have a different nucleus of players, and players who earned the right to play in the playoffs might be elsewhere. Not to mention a team that sneaks into the playoffs could load up on free agents after the regular season and use them to win the trophy. The current system works fine, and except for playing a 7 game series over 2 weeks should stay as is

posted by Rob1118 at 02:03 PM on October 05

Why do you need playoffs when you have the entire season to determine a winner? Why do you need 5 games in early playoffs when 3 or even 1 should suffice? When a season nears its end, there is always another sport ready grab our attention. Very few people that I know and have known are in favor of extended playoffs. Far too many teams in the NBA and NHL qualify for the playoffs. The NBA and the NHL have two seasons. One to determine who will be in the playoffs and another to find a champion. I wonder if the greed of the owners and TV/Radio networks could have anything to do with it?

posted by jimhllrn at 03:09 PM on October 05

You wonder? I would say that's exactly what's to do with it. That was the line of thinking I started at to get to this point. I understand that parallel storylines are the basis for any good soap opera, and what's any sports season if not a soap opera, right? All I'm proposing is that we tighten the script up a little bit and give the viewers something to follow even if the main plot is temporarily lacking in drama (as it usually is early and late in the season unless your team is contending that year, and often all year long anyways). There's double the chance for teams to play spoiler, and a short burst of playoffs every once in a while is a lot more exciting than the relentless (and often monotonous) thud-thud-thud of a seven-game series all at once. Think of the between-time trash talking and hype that could go on! Instead of hoping someone says something stupid in one half-hour press conference before they get on the plane to head to the other city, you'd have two weeks of what-do-you-think-about-this and what's-your-reaction-to-that. They'd need to buy extra billboards for all the material they'd have! The Mariottis of this world would go apeshit! Free agency and retirement happen anyway. I wouldn't consider that a case against this proposal. Of course things would change, but it's just another layer of drama, which, let's be frank, is why we're all here, right? And I don't want to turn this into a referendum on the world series trophy, but you know I'm right. It's ugly and unwieldy and highly breakable, and handing it to drunk people every year is just begging for a disaster to happen. The Lombardi and O'Brien trophies are sturdy and can be gripped with one hand, and the Stanley Cup once spent a month at the bottom of a lake with minimal damage. (Look it up.) Trophies are to be brandished, not placed gently on pillows like robin's eggs.

posted by chicobangs at 03:46 PM on October 05

so, in MLB would you do away with the 2 leagues and have one big table like in the EPL? i can't see how a regular season champion could be fairly crowned if the schedules aren't balanced (or at the very least balanced more so than they are now.) MLS, by the way, sort of does this as well. they have the supporter's shield trophy for the team with the best regular season record.

posted by goddam at 04:03 PM on October 05

Why would that have to happen? The regular season champion is just straight-up the best record in the game. What's wrong with that? It'd give the best team in each league something to strive for even after they've clinched everything, and it'd be a reason for them to not shut the engines down two weeks before the end of the year. Which keeps people interested right to the end, which drives ticket sales and ratings, etc etc and everyone wins. It doesn't have to be any more than that. You could set up a one-game playoff or something between the best AL & NL team, but you don't have to. As far as the playoffs, you take the games currently being played in October, and instead you play those exact same playoff games at preset times during the following season. Nothing else about them has to change. These things could easily be planned far enough ahead that you could plan a four-game playoff series and then another three-gamer (if necessary) two weeks later, and then repeat the process a month after that for the LCS. Everyone has a dance partner, same as now. What else has to change? And MLS is the closest to making this happen. I hope they push forward with it. They're the thin end of the wedge.

posted by chicobangs at 04:11 PM on October 05

Oh, wait! (I'm really sorry for monopolizing this thread, but it's Friday.) Even better - you play that AL-best vs. NL-best one-gamer to officially start the following season, kind of like the Community Shield in the FA/EPL. You give away a piece of hardware on Opening Day. You start and end the season with a trophy presentation. Come on, how would this be a bad idea?

posted by chicobangs at 04:19 PM on October 05

I think this is a cool proposal though I wonder if it isn't the TV networks who benefit the most from the playoffs as post-season. Since they're the ones paying the bills (except for hockey and soccer)...

posted by billsaysthis at 04:32 PM on October 05

Basketball is the one that does me in. I don't follow basketball but it seems their playoff's go on for 2-3 months at least. I think the whole split division isn't a bad idea. I mean yeah, it'd be cool to have one massive league table for baseball or whatever, but it's nice to have two to build to a big finish. What I find interesting is in US sports there is no relegation and promotion. In baseball at least, they could relegate the two teams with the worst record, and promote the two best AAA teams. I find it hard to stomach all the playoff stuff in any sport when we've just had a whole regular season. I mean in baseball, 162 games just to determine who gets to the playoff's. Take that as an individual item and it sounds insane. Why not just run a double elimination tournament or something? Nothing is going to change anyway, so it's fun to come up with outlandish ideas to "improve" leagues. And yes, I'm sure the networks like it. They always whine about baseballs ratings, but I bet they make a fair chunk of change of the 96 different games they show in October. TBS wouldn't have bought the rights if there wasn't phat l00t to be had.

posted by Drood at 04:34 PM on October 05

Chicago...I'm on board broadly speaking. But gd has a point. Crowing a Premiership champion at the end of the season makes sense because the top flight is fixed at 20 teams, so each team plays every other team twice, home and home. That's the perfect balance required to put so much glory into winning the "regular season." It's not just about creating a trophy awarded to the team with the best record. The challenge is making it meaningful. Unfortunately, none of this will ever happen... Good luck undoing or dramatically changing the franchise system in favor of adding dozens of smaller clubs. The leagues operate so well in Europe because they grew up that way...affiliations of independent clubs who fought their way in the system and up through the lower leagues. You'd also have a hard time breaking up the League/Conference/Division scheme, which is designed to serve a playoff system.

posted by lawn_wrangler at 04:38 PM on October 05

Sorry, meant to address that to Chicobangs....

posted by lawn_wrangler at 04:50 PM on October 05

I think this thread and the one after this one are getting mixed up. No one's looking to add or contract clubs here. That's a whole nother discussion. Overhauling the playoff system and deciding on contraction vs. relegation are two different discussions. To do both, especially at the same time, would really freak everyone out. The reason I started thinking about this is that the regular season is so undervalued as things are. But yeah, to change the playoff system would require a seismic change in the layout of the league. I'm not saying it would be easy, I'm just saying it's possible, and maybe even, if you take the long view, worth the effort.

posted by chicobangs at 06:04 PM on October 05

Wow, I'm really shocked to find this proposal getting so much traction here. We have something in Noth American sports where the regular season means everything, then they take a break and play some exhibitions. It's called the BCS and it sucks. A sports season is a journey and teams learn and grow and get better. Playoffs are an attempt (imperfect, I admit) to determine who is the best right now. As for the series concept, we all know any single game can turn on one freak lucky break. What kid hasn't screamed, "No way man! Two outta three, let's go!" Especially in baseball, a single game is a crapshoot. I like the playoffs. So do most fans. So do the players. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. The drama is compacted into a few games and as intense as anything in sports. PLAY BALL!

posted by gradioc at 06:30 PM on October 05

Well lets see. A one game playoff to determine a champion. If you happen to draw an umpire who owes his life to a bookie ,you lose. If you happen to draw a referee who has a hard on for a paticular player, you lose. Cities who spend hundreds of millions on stadia on the "if come" of their team making it into the playoffs and generating tons of dollars being spent in their bars, resturants,hotels etc. cry foul because they get one game only. Oh yeah the players unions would certainly go for this new idea. Not!!!!

posted by Ironhead at 06:53 PM on October 05

As mentioned above, MLS has its Supporters Shield for the team with the best regular season record. This was created, as the name implies, by the fans, and not by the league, because back then the MLS "didn't get the concept". However, things are changing: the MLS Supporters Shield winner now gets an automatic berth in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, along with the MLS Cup winner, and the two top teams from Mexico, two top teams from Central America and two top teams from the Caribbean. So, winning the MLS Supporters Shield, ie, having the best regular season record, really means something now and gives the winning club a chance to earn more money and trophies in the CONCACAF Champions Cup (now if only MLS's regular season schedule coincided better with the CONCACAF Champions Cup schedule, but that's another issue entirely). Also, the MLS Supporters Shield is getting more meaningful because MLS is getting closer to a true balanced schedule/single table concept. Yes, the conferences still exist, for now, but the playoff system is now more based on who has the best record overall rather than who happens to be at or near the top of a weak conference. Once MLS has 16 teams with each team playing everyone else twice, home and away, for a 30 game schedule, the MLS Supporters Shield will reflect accurately who did best overall during the regular season.

posted by dave2007 at 07:39 PM on October 05

gradioc and ironhead, no one is saying to abolish the playoffs. Nor is anyone saying to play a one-game playoff for the biggest trophy in the sport neither. A lot of ground has been covered, and we're throwing ideas around. Maybe that's the problem. The concept on the table is to discuss the viability of playing the playoffs, exactly as they are, throughout the next season instead of playing them all at once at the end of a long season, when everyone is tired and injured and the fans are ready for the offseason. If you believe anyone here is threatening to abolish the playoffs or just throw trophies around willy-nilly, then please, read this thread again.

posted by chicobangs at 07:56 PM on October 05

If I had one complaint about the EPL, it would be how anti-climatic the end of the season is.

posted by yerfatma at 09:29 PM on October 05

That's why we have the Romance Of The FA Cup (TM), as well as Big Cup and Euro Vase. Those two weeks in May are pretty busy.

posted by owlhouse at 10:33 PM on October 05

yerfatma, are you saying that england is devoid of weather patterns at the end of the season? Cuz I think, if true, that's remarkable.

posted by lawn_wrangler at 11:38 PM on October 05

now if you meant anticlimactic, where would you place this?

posted by lawn_wrangler at 11:43 PM on October 05

The thing that irks me with US sports is this "best of seven" crap in the final series. Drood, that's partly because the people who set this system up in the first place were looking to "pad out" a playoff season, Technicality: The "best of seven" is actually a shrunken version of the original World Series format. The reason that baseball has a "best-of" series in the playoffs is two-fold: 1) Financial: more games means more money, especially since the players aren't being paid for these games (except for winners' shares, which would go to the winning team regardless of the number of games being played). 2) Playing only one game would mean that only one starting pitcher (per team) would participate. In essence, you are not really providing a competition of full team vs full team. now if you meant anticlimactic, where would you place this? Of course, there is always the chance that the final match of the season could have drama and determine the outcome for first place. However, there is a much more likely chance that the season is decided before the final week. In fact, it's been 9 years since the EPL has been decided by 3 points or less in the standings. In comparison, I can say that every single NHL and NBA championship has been decided in the last game of the playoffs (except for this one).

posted by grum@work at 12:46 AM on October 06

chico, I have a question. If you are playing the playoffs during the next season, when do player contracts end?

posted by apoch at 03:09 AM on October 06

End of the year, same as now. Why would that have to change? Here's the difference: you as a team are playing your regular season for the right to play in a separate tournament the next season for another prestigious prize. If you as a player leave or retire the year your team makes the playoffs, then that would mean you couldn't play the next year, right? And if an owner top-loads their team to play two or three seven-game series, well, they'd sure look silly if if they don't win, wouldn't they? That happens all the time now too, and I suspect that wouldn't change. The playoffs are already a separate season. By playing them during the next year instead of tacking them onto the end of this year, they actually become part of the whole annual experience of the sport a lot better than the frenzied They-Shoot-Horses-Don't-They-style epilogue they are now. If that sounds silly to American ears (and it sounded silly to me until I watched it in action & worked it out in my head), well, that's how they do it literally everywhere else on the planet, and it seems to work. I'm just questioning the tradition of tacking playoffs that mean everything to a very few teams onto the end of a long and ultimately meaningless regular season.

posted by chicobangs at 03:48 AM on October 06

In comparison, I can say that every single NHL and NBA championship has been decided in the last game of the playoffs. True enough. I simply prefer the English method of defining "champion" not as who gets hot at the end (even though I'm a Cardinals fan), but who actually deserves it based on quality the entire season long.

posted by lawn_wrangler at 08:27 AM on October 06

I totally agree with several things said by people here. 1) There should be some type of award for the best record during the regular season. 2) The regular seasons of some sports are way too long. For instance, baseball. Baseball is supposed to be the game of summer. But when WS games and early season games are SNOWED OUT it ceases to be a summer game. 3) The post season playoffs drag on because too many teams make the playoffs. Which by itself diminishes the importance of the regular season. When almost half the league makes the playoffs (NHL, NFL, NBA) the regular seasons means nothing. Reduce the number of teams making the playoffs!! Other than that I think the whole idea of playoffs during the next season is ridiculas. As we all know teams here are not the same year to year and you punish those individuals who worked hard to get a team to the playoffs and then were cut, traded, or left via free agency. They would not get the oppurtunity to play for the championship of their sport. Not to mention the unfairness to the fans of that city might not get to watch the team that was so successful play with the same players for the championship. But enough said. None of this will ever happen because there is way to much money involved for the present system to change.

posted by patrickm at 12:25 PM on October 06

Post. Of. The. Week! :) That was good, but this one is tough to beat.

posted by SummersEve at 01:19 PM on October 06

Here's what I was thinking when I read this -- not knowing much of anything about European sport -- using the NHL as an example. Play the regular season, but knock it down from 82 games to say 60 (or any necessary number to make things jive). Instead of an all-star break have a round-robin inter-divisional tournament mid-season. The winner gets a trophy and all kinds of accolades, parades and chocolates. The games would be regional so people would probably get pretty interested in the inherent rivalries. Plus, if your team's in the toilet at least there's something to cheer for. After the tournament, finish the regular season, but only take the top teams, or top two teams in each conference. Obviously you would need to balance the schedule, but you could since the divisional thing would be so necessary since you have that tournament. You have the playoff revenue built into the middle of the season, you can make it a similar number of games as there are now, and every team could get even more games of relevance.

posted by SummersEve at 02:18 PM on October 06

Remove the playoffs and remove the romance. Championships will go not to the best teams, but to the best assemblies of talent, to the teams that can afford to staff a Chelsea-like bench, signing players just to keep them away from other squads. No, give me a team that comes together in the second half, squeaks into the playoffs, gels and runs the table. No one gets into the playoffs without being decent; who's to say beating on the chumps in your weak division is a better measurement of greatness than winning a short-form tournament of the best chump-beaters?

posted by yerfatma at 04:33 PM on October 06

No one gets into the playoffs without being decent; The Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs three years in a row ,winning an average of 26 (out of 80) games a season.

posted by grum@work at 06:52 PM on October 06

Does this help the Mets? If so, I'm interested. Seriously though, as mentioned above, I'm not sure how you get around the major reshuffling of teams that takes place every off season with free agency. In fact, under this plan, teams that make the "post-season" would have every incentive to stock up for "next year's playoffs". I'm not sure how you get around this. But I'm more than happy to listen.

posted by cjets at 10:16 PM on October 06

Baseball is overrated, look at how many teams are grossly overpaid, Hmmm, New York Yankees, NUFF SAID.

posted by Marko2020 at 05:39 AM on October 07

Thanks for the nonsensical assertion. Keep 'em coming.

posted by yerfatma at 08:14 AM on October 07

Baseball is overrated, look at how many teams are grossly overpaid, Hmmm, New York Yankees, NUFF SAID. I find it interesting you'd complain about "grossly overpaid" baseball teams, but you seem to support the Boston Red Sox. At least you are inconsistent with your nonsensical.

posted by grum@work at 09:30 AM on October 07

In his defense, he did say nuff.

posted by SummersEve at 11:09 AM on October 07

I think the biggest obstacle to your idea is the business aspect of sports in America. As was commented earlier, you have to pander to the tv networks, sponsors, and owners. Also, anything that would lengthen the seasons of our sports would add confusion.

posted by jb24 at 11:56 AM on October 07

Hey, chico, excellent first column. Intriguing ideas presented, which I completely support. I was expecting you to talk about relegation/promotion, too, but I see now that it was a wise choice to keep it to the playoffs. Just introducing the playoff idea was complicated enough as it is (at least for the US). Also, to clarify, don't mix up playoff with cup tournaments. (1) FA and League (Carling) Cup tourneys are not playoffs - They are self-contained, in-season competitions, that are not dependent on any team's accomplishments in the previous season. Every year is a fresh start. Also, they are local, meaning that only UK teams play. (2) Champs League, UEFA Cup, etc. are indeed dependent on the previous season - You only get in if you finished as number 1, 2, 3 or 4 (as well as some other mind-numbing non-obvious ways like how nice your manners were) in your national league the season before or won one of the major cup tourneys noted in (1). Yes, the other difference here is that these tourneys are international, i.e., teams from different top national leagues (e.g., UK's English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, etc.) get to compete against each other. I think it simpler to use the first model in introducing it to the US market. Keep it local (and yes, that would even include Canada for some leagues, Mexico for others), keep it to the season. Other ideas that complicate things (in terms of changing "the way things are done", but simplify things for the fan, or at least one who has grown up on the Euro systems ;-): - One integrated league (vs east, west, north, south, national, american, etc.) - Home-and-away, round-robin system where every team plays everybody once in their home stadium (the NFL and MLB could do more of this, the NBA could do with less LOL) - Promotion and relegation I think the other thing to consider with these "complicating" ideas is the geographical range and associated travel costs within the Americas vs Europe. I wonder how insurmountable this really is.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:47 PM on October 07

In his defense, he did say nuff. I just hope he keeps his promise that he has said "NUFF."

posted by jojomfd1 at 10:07 PM on October 07

You guys better lay off. He explicitly said, "NUFF SAID."

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:13 AM on October 08

Do you know the NUFF-in man?

posted by SummersEve at 11:30 AM on October 08

You know NUFFin'!

posted by worldcup2002 at 12:50 PM on October 08

There's a simple enough reason: American sports means a final shebang and one winner. American fans like power more than stamina. The more complicated reason, as wc2k2 notes, is that geography and the calendar generally mitigate against the classic balanced season model. The Premier League season is short enough for every match to matter, and long enough to be 'a marathon and not a sprint' (TM Ron Manager). If I had one complaint about the EPL, it would be how anti-climatic the end of the season is. You have to be joking. Perhaps the title is locked up, but relegation battles (and the prize of European qualification) usually go down to the wire. It's certainly arguable that the three division playoff finals have supplanted the FA Cup as the emotional climax to the English season, but even then it's rewarding teams that have records way above the win/loss %age that gets you into the NFL/NHL/NBA playoffs.

posted by etagloh at 12:52 PM on October 08

I'll give you the relegation excitement, but I meant in terms of the front-end of the table. It's just my American perception after one season; my frame of reference is to watch for who wins. And European qualification seemed a foregone conclusion last year; it was just a question of whether there would be six spots available. Again, it's more how I looked at it than how it is. I'm wired to watch for a coronation. I suppose there's no real reason that should be the point of a sports league.

posted by yerfatma at 01:03 PM on October 08

What I find interesting is in US sports there is no relegation and promotion. In baseball at least, they could relegate the two teams with the worst record, and promote the two best AAA teams. I realize that the relegation angle was a little tangential to this thread, but (and I do like the idea of adding relegation into American sports) how do you account for the fact that AAA teams are tied to MLB teams through the farm system?

posted by bender at 01:23 PM on October 08

Post. Of. The. Week! :) That was good, but this one is tough to beat. posted by SummersEve at 1:19 PM CDT on October 6 It's that time of year when every week is a must win and every post means something. We can't worry about the past posts, we have to keep focusing on today's post and hope that we can pull off a win this week. Sure, you catch yourself message-board-watching. I know Fraze is putting up some big posts lately. He's got a lot of momentum. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but if we can take advantage of some mistakes this week... like "NUFF-in man"... hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to move on. Perhaps surprisingly, I'd like to look at Chico's suggestion from a baseball perspective. The evolution of baseaball went roughly thusly: before 1903, leagues had a decided pennant winner at the end of the season, and that was pretty much that. There were a few seasons in which pennant winners from rival leagues faced each other, but these were exhibitions (of the sort chico seems to be proposing) and were far from official. In 1903, the AL and NL decided to start a tradition of formal post-season games in the form of a World Series, and minus a hiccup in 1904 when the NL champ Giants refused to play the AL champ Red Sox and 1994 when some miserable rotten bastards ruined everything, the World Series has been used to determine the regular season champion of the two league's pennant winners. The growth of baseball and expansion of the leagues has brought about expansion of the post-season, but the purpose continues to be to determine the regular season champion. To say that there can be a notion of a regular season champion that supercedes any post-season accomplishments sends us right back to the beginning of the 20th Century. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but it does sort of blatantly ignore what the World Series is supposed to be doing in the first place. As an admitted baseball traditionalist, my knee-jerk reaction (really, even before I read the column) is to say that these suggested changes will never work. But I am willing, for the purpose of spitballing, to put aside that narrow view for a moment to explore how your plan, chico, might be put to good use in baseball. I don't like the idea of moving the post-season into the following year for these reasons: 1. I consider the link between the regular season and the post-season to be too strong and it would damage my view of "The Season." 2. The period from Opening Day to the World Series I think should be an endurance test -- not as much as a measure of pure talent, but I would not want to see the element of endurance removed. Part of the allure of any season's "Mr. October" is knowing that this player endured a full 162-game season (or presumably some good chunk of it) and still rose up to a high level of achievement at the end of all that. That means something to me. 3. The age and development of players contributes to the magic of October. I don't want to see players who reached their peak value in their career year mean nothing in the post-season because they lost all their magic in the off-season. Likewise, rookie sensations are more seasoned the following year (and some potentially experiencing their "sophomore slump," and I'd rather their regular season magic and newness remain on stage for the post-season. 4. It would make managing pitchers and rotations even more complicated. The potential plus is that it simply adds more strategy (e.g. do you use your ace or closer in the game to win for this season or save him for last year's post-season game), but the end result is that one or the other gets compromised and the incentive to abuse and injure pitchers becomes greater. That said, I would consider sacrificing some or all of this if by either moving the post-season or independently creating a mid-season "exhibition series" you were able to achieve any of the following: 1. the total removal of any incentive to have post-championship fire sales; 1a. the increased incentive to retain as many players as possible on winning teams, mitigating player movement in the free agency era; 2. somehow making the exhibition series revenue exclusively attendance driven -- either by not adjusting broadcast contracts to include them or by making the exhibitions "camera-free" non-broadcast events. My theory, possibly faulty, being that if a greater percentage of team revenue is made up of gate receipts, it will create a stronger incentive for teams to put a competitive product on the field; 3. bring back the nostalgic notion of barnstorming. For my part, instead of moving the post-season to the following year, I'd be all for eliminating the month of stupid Interleague games and replacing them intermittently through the season with some kind of exhibition/barnstorming format that involves all the teams. If you work them as short series, they might prove to be good ways to measure how a playoff hopeful will stand up in such a format. And I'm sure there are benefits that aren't occurring to me right now. And to finish, though I recognize it's not really the discussion here, relegation would not work in baseball, at least not with minor league teams. AAA teams are not separate clubs, they are farming operations whose players move up and down routinely throughout the season. They are not whole professional teams trying to climb the ranks. Frequently they are dotted with major league players on injury rehab or temporarily sent down for seasoning, which makes them temporarily more powerful, thus throwing off the actual balance of power in the lower leagues. Nuff said. Sorry I was so long. On edit: what bender said re: relegation.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 01:25 PM on October 08

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