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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why are there playoffs?

Yesterday I heard Met announcer Keith Hernandez talking about Phillie Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts who had just died at 83. Almost as amazing as my listening to Met announcers was what Hernandez, the 1979 co-MVP in the NL said: that Roberts pitched in big games down the stretch in 1950 to get the Phillies into the playoffs.

The PLAYOFFS! And none of the other Met announcers corrected Hernandez. We're talking playoffs!? It was the late, great WORLD SERIES, Keith! The WORLD SERIES! The World Series has morphed into the MLB finals. Once upon a time there were two distinct leagues: National and American. They each had eight teams who played a 154 game schedule at the end of which the team with the most wins was awarded a symbolic flag or pennant. That was it. Then they decided to settle which league pennant winner was better. They played a best of seven games series (four seasons it was best of nine). That series became known as the World Series.

Then came franchise movement followed by expansion in 1961 and 1962. More expansion in 1969 to twelve teams in each league and the creation of the first divisions, east and west. Six teams in each division. Not bad. Initially, they played unbalanced schedules. In English that meant the common sense idea of playing more games against teams in their division than against the teams in the other division in the same league. Later came more expansion, then more and the creation in 1994 of the perversion that currently exists in MLB, Inc.: three mini divisions of four to six teams, a wild card and unbalanced inter-league play. It's difficult to imagine a more convoluted, unfair system. The NFL followed a similar path.

It is unclear why the NBA and NHL originally pioneered playoffs after the regular season. Here is the basic question. Other than the obvious greed factor, why are there playoffs? Determining the best team is best done over the most games. The fewer games played, the more likely that an inferior team will get lucky and win. Over a regular season of 162 games it becomes pretty clear which team is best. In 2009 it was the Yankees who co-incidentally also won the MLB finals. Here were the 2009 AL leaders in wins after 162 games and their division:

Yankees 103 East
Angels 97 West
Boston 95 East wildcard
Texas 87 West did not qualify for playoff
Minnesota 86 Central
Detroit 86 Central

Since Minnesota and Detroit were in the same division, they had a one game play-in to determine the Central division winner. Minnesota won and played the Yankees in a best of five first round series. Say what? The Yankees won 17 more of the 162 scheduled games and yet the Yankees had to risk their entire season on a best of five crap shoot in which the Yankees only reward was that game five, if necessary, would be played in Yankee Stadium. In the 2009 NL the Dodgers lead with 95 wins but lost to the 93 win Phillies in round two. Again, I ask: why have playoffs? Other than making more money for MLB, Inc., what purpose is served? Either:

1. Limit a playoff to the old World Series and match the NL win leader against the AL win leader.


2. Follow my previous suggestion and put all teams into the playoff with HEAVY weighting to favor teams the higher they are seeded.

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