|Bob Aspromonte, Houston Colt .45s|
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today there are 30 teams, 50% more than in 1964. One third of teams now can qualify for the tournament. In 1964 it was straight competition: the two pennant winners played in the old World Series. In the regular season all teams in a league played all others the same number of games: 18. It was actually fair back then. It actually made sense. To make a 1964 playoff system somewhat like today, let's have three of the ten qualify. The one seed waits while 2 hosts 3 in a do or die elimination game to play one in a 5 or 7 game series to reach the finals. That seems to be a reasonable approximation of what we have today, doesn't it? Now let's compare teams within five games of qualifying.
2014, through August 26:
American Conference division leads:
Kansas City Royals 1.5
Angels 1 one seed
National Conference division leads:
Washington Nationals 7.5 one seed
Milwaukee Brewers 1.5
American Conference wild card:
Oakland As +5
National Conference wild card:
St. Louis +2
Atlanta Braves -1.5
In each conference there are three division leaders, plus wild card one and then teams on the bubble for the second wild card. Each conference happens to have four bubble teams. So that's 8 of 15 teams in contention. About half.
American League wins:
White Sox 98
National League wins:
St. Louis 93
San Francisco 90
Milwaukee Braves 88
Three of ten were in contention in the American League. But half of the ten National League teams contended and the final week was frantic and exciting with three teams seeming to have the upper hand at various points.
Ultimately, St. Louis defeated the Yankees in seven games in the World Series. Three American League teams won more games than St. Louis. Eight of 20 teams contended in 1964, 40%.
So it's 50% contending in 2014 v. 40% in 1964. But the schedule (18 games against the 9 opponents) in 1964 was obviously fair and the schedule in 2014 is unfair and somewhat random. I'd like something like the 1964 format. Here's a suggestion.
Contract two teams and reduce from 30 to 28 teams. The obvious candidates are the two teams in Florida. How the heck did that state ever get one much less two teams? Eliminate them.
Then form four divisions of seven teams each that play the same number of games against the same opponents. If they play 18 games against each of the six opponents, that's 108 games. Then another 42 against the seven teams (six games each) in the other division in the conference. No inter-conference play. That makes for a better final series. That's 150 regular season games, which is plenty. We could have the format suggested for 1964: have the one seed play the winner of a do or die game between two and three. That means that 12 of 28 teams qualify: 43%. Higher percentage of teams in competition but in a completely fair way. And it puts a premium on attaining the one seed, which makes the long regular season more meaningful.
Oh, and realign them geographically. That's long overdue. Right now the Yankees are competing for that worthless second wild card against two teams 3,000 miles away. That makes no sense.