Bud Selig is an idiot

Today has been billed as a historic day in Major League Baseball. It may certainly be that, but I think mostly for the wrong reasons. I don’t know what metric Bud Selig is using when he says that the Wild Card has been a ‘remarkable success’, but even if it is his new system will effectively gut it. From either next year or 2013 the top two Wild Card teams will play a one game play-in to determine the Wild Card berth. So we are finally rid of that ridiculous situation where we can go to the last day of the season and have four games with an impact on the Wild Card winner! Never again will we have that nightmare scenario where two walk-off wins in the space of ten minutes can decide who will be in the postseason! Thank you Bud Selig, thank you! To paraphrase Selig himself, to say that this decision is remarkably stupid would be an understatement. There is nothing to be gained by having two more teams play one more game. If the Wild Card race is close it won’t be exciting (since finishing in first will guarantee nothing) and if one team runs away with it they will not be rewarded for their superior performance. It’s a no-win situation. It’s yet more evidence in favour of my longstanding hypothesis that Bud Selig is an idiot.

The rest of the changes aren’t nearly as bad. The Astros will be moving to the AL West in 2013. As a fan of symmetry, I am happy with this. Each division will now have five teams. Houston has historically been an NL market, but there has been less and less difference between the leagues recently. The move will mostly just guarantee that the Royals will have at least six games in 2013 against a team that was 56-106 this year. That’s no bad thing. It will also necessitate interleague play throughout the season, to which I am ambivalent. I like interleague play, but I can see it taken too far. Especially since it tends to mean that some teams have a slightly easier schedule than others. (Though the unbalanced schedule does the same and to a much greater extent. Hopefully they will do away with that.)

Overall the changes are good, but the added wild card is change for the sake thereof and will have a negative effect. Hopefully Selig decides that this is his magnum opus and stops meddling now.

2 thoughts on “Bud Selig is an idiot

  1. Bandon, I think you are wrong. And I’ve studied tournament schedules a lot.

    First, 4 teams fighting for the play-offs once in every 40 years has now become 4 teams fighting for the play-offs every season. The advantage to coming first in the wildcard has been reduced from play-off berth to home advantage in one game. Which in a sense is how it should be: a team ought to win its division to play post-season.

    Second, the split line on who is in and who is out is where the action is, and there is no reason 5th-6th will be less exciting than 4th-5th was. Actually, mathematically 5th-6th is more likely to be exciting, because of win distribution.

    Third, winning the division now matters a lot, which will be particularly important if the Yankees and Sox are coasting towards the playoffs (again).

    One game to decide the wild-card berth is a little odd, and I’m no great fan of more inter-league play (not that it really matters) but it will be more exciting, for certain. Personally I’d like to see the MLB leave the last 18 games of the schedule open, for three 6-game (3 home-3 away) series between the top-2 in each division, or if decided, the 2nd team in that division and the next best team. That way the run-in will match up the contenders on the final few days, rather than against teams that don’t care either way.

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  2. It’s true that it would mean that winning the division means more, I hadn’t thought of that.

    But I don’t think that a race between 5th and 6th would be more exciting than a race between 4th and 5th because there is less on the line. Neither team is getting into the playoffs proper, just an extra day. And it isn’t fair for the team who wins the Wild Card outright, because all those games are meaningless. This is part of the reason why I don’t like the Wild Card in general, but at least with a best of five Division Series there is a fair chance for the best team to win. (And it’s never against a team that they already ‘beat’ at least in the first round.) A one-off match is subject to more fluke results.

    More broadly, the more rounds there are in any tournament the less meaning those rounds have, and the less meaning the season itself has. This is okay in something like the football World Cup where the point is more the knockout rounds and the group stage is a bit of a formality (usually). But this isn’t the case in baseball. The regular season is the main event; the postseason is extra. When even teams with mediocre records can make it to the postseason it devalues the regular season. More is not always better.

    What’s really annoying though is that the current set up works. We saw that this year; we had a thrilling final day of the season and a thrilling postseason. Why meddle with it? It has never thrown up any glaring problems; the worst that ever happens is that the Division Series can be quite boring sometimes, but that is not a problem that will be solved by adding another round in before it.

    I do like the notion of having the last games of the year between teams and their nearest contenders, though I think 18 is far too many games. Six (three at home, three on the road) would be plenty, otherwise it would get stale, I think. The only real problem is that a lot of fans (myself included) make plans for the end of the season a couple of months in advance. (As a Royals fan I’ve always known exactly when the last game of the season will be.) The same I am sure goes for administrators who plan the promotion nights and the local TV and radio broadcasters who need to know what to schedule. It also leaves open the possibility of one team having a harder schedule than another. Of course, this is already the case with the unbalanced schedule, but that only affects the Wild Card race. None of that is impossible to overcome of course, but it is very nice having a clear fixture list.

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