By In Stuff

Playoffs? Playoffs?

The only thing people care less about than your golf game, your worst beat in poker and your mattress sleep number is your fantasy baseball team. So: stop reading now. I’m not kidding.

Why are you still reading? Stop.

OK, fine, you’re still here — you have been warned. This is about my Strat-o-Matic fantasy baseball team. But even more, it’s about something even less interesting: My enduring hatred of playoffs in baseball.

Strat-O asked me and a bunch of cool people — Jon Miller, Jack Curry, Doug Glanville, Joe Sheehan, Joe Lemire, Will Leitch, Stuart Miller, Steve Gardner, Marc Stein, Chad Finn and Strat-O inventor Hal Richman — to play in a Baseball 365 league, which takes the Strato-O-Matic board game and puts it online for a full season with all sorts of bells and whistles. The winner, we were told, would get a $1,000 gift to their favorite charity. I chose Harvester’s, a food bank in Kansas City.

Me and my buddy Chardon Jimmy promptly and methodically built what was unquestionably the best team in the league.

And — we didn’t even come close to winning the $1,000 prize. Sorry Harvester’s.

What happened was this: we lost in the FIRST ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS. We got swept by the team owned by Marc Stein. Now, I don’t want to sound like there are sour grapes but WHAAAAAAAAAA*$&#&#^#&#$&$*#&#&@^&$*#(#(!!!!!!!

I can’t believe you’re still reading this.

Our team, the Salt Waaps — I’ll explain that name in a later post if you are at all interested — won 95 games, most in the league. We had a 181-run differential, which was basically twice as good as anyone in the league. We had by far the best pitching staff (we gave up 78 fewer runs than any team in the league) and one of the best offenses (third in the league in runs scored).

WeWe started off the year slowly and were 15-20 after the first 35 games. After that, we made some moves (picking up Adam Eaton and Odubel Herrera and Matt Adams others) we went 80-47 the rest of the way, .630 baseball.

The boring point is — we were the best team. We won our division by 15 games and the whole league by two games. Then we were set up against Marc’s team, the Bulls. They were fine. They went 84-78, got outscored by a run during the season, scored 100 fewer runs than us and gave up the previously mentioned 78 more.

And they swept us four straight in the playoffs because … playoffs.

I get that playoffs are America. I do. We like the immediacy of playoffs, the randomness of playoffs, the newfound hope of playoffs. Everybody has a chance. Underdogs can win. We like March Madness, where 60-some teams get thrown into a hat and play their way out to the grating sounds of “One Shining Moment.” We like NHL and NBA and NFL playoff games, where players turn up the intensity to 11. We like October baseball when we sometimes get games like last year’s Rangers-Blue Jays joyfest. We are so in love with playoffs we go absolutely crazy when sports don’t have them or when they are not expansive enough (see Football, College). I get it.

But it has long struck me that by choosing playoffs over regular season excellence, we make the conscious choice for drama over consistent quality, we choose immediacy over the sustained brilliance, we choose the big play over the long play.

This is especially true in baseball, where numerous factors work against playoffs:

1. The baseball season is an absurd 162 games.

That’s long enough to pick a champion.

2. Baseball is a natural equalizer.

In football, great teams can go 14-2 or 15-1 (or even 16-0). Great basketball teams as we just saw can win 70-plus games out of of 82. Hockey is a little bit different with the ties, but the very best teams can win around 75% of their games.

Great baseball teams win 62% of their games — that’s 100 wins. And even that doesn’t happen much. Only one team the last four years has won 100 games in a season (Cardinals last year). No American League team has won 100 games since the 2009 Yankees.

And the point? Well, it’s a sport that defines greatness over weeks and months. Greatness in baseball is that thing that rides crests and weathers slumps, it carries through cool weather and hot, through injuries and surprise, the aches and pains of old guys, the naive mistakes of young guys, through all the manager moves that work and flop. The best team at the end of a long season is, in my view, the BEST TEAM.

But then we choose our champion based on who can win three short playoff series.

3. Pennant races > playoff series.

Eh, most people disagree. But I love the final two or three weeks of a close pennant race so much more than I enjoy playoffs. That tension is unlike anything in sports. We don’t really have pennant races any more because ten teams make the baseball playoff. I’m guessing 90% of baseball fans prefer that. I’m fine with that; I’m a fantatical baseball fan so I’ll take baseball any way I can get it. But I dig pennant races.

4. Luck. Luck. Luck.

The smaller the sample size, the more opportunities luck has of deciding things. It makes for good viewing. It makes for a great experience if your team happens to be the lucky one. But … when picking a champ I’d prefer keeping luck on the sidelines as much as possible.

Of course, I’m just the old guy whose Strat-o-Matic team choked in the playoffs and now I’m shouting at clouds. I can’t believe anyone is reading these words down here.

In all seriousness, congratulations to Steve Gardner (and the Michael J. Fox Foundation) for his team’s well-deserved victory. He really did have a great team that won 92 games and then rolled through the playoffs. He deserved his championship. Now I’m going to call Billy Beane to ask him how to endure when you realize that your bleep doesn’t work in the playoffs. Maybe I’ll fire a manager.


57 Responses to Playoffs? Playoffs?

  1. wogggs says:

    Sorry, Joe. You’re just wrong about this. Playoffs are great, and I think, necessary.

    When there were 16 baseball teams and two leagues, having the two league champions meet in the World Series made sense. Who needs a playoff in an 8 team league? Heck, each team played every other team over 20 times each. That was more than enough head to head competition to pick a league champion.

    In two 15 team leagues you need divisions (where we determine the champion based on the regular season and the teams play each other 19 times each). Once you go through that grind, it’s time to put them into the playoffs and see which team is best (or, in many cases, hottest, but that can define a close pennant race at the end of the regular season, too). Moreover, the playoff teams are frequently from different divisions where they may play each other in the playoffs more times than they did during the regular season.

    • DG Lewis says:

      Why do you need divisions in 15 team leagues? 12 games each against 14 other teams gives a 168 game schedule, which would be fine in a season that had no postseason other than a 7-game World Series.

      Or you could have each team play 11 games against each other team, giving you 154 game seasons, which has some sort of precedent…

    • David Bowser says:

      Great points. The unbalanced division and AL-NL schedule was the first thing I thought of.

      If there were no NL and AL, and it was a 145 game schedule (5 games against 29 teams), then an MLB champ would have the benefit of a balanced schedule as well as a tie-breaker h2h record. The one hitch is that there would be a home-away balance issue.

      Make that 174 games (6 each with 3 home 3 away) and at least you would have a system built for regular season champs.

    • Steve says:

      You’re really opening your response with “you’re just wrong about this”? People don’t have a right to an opinion that’s different from yours, I guess. … I’m sorry, but that really rankles me.

      • Rob Smith says:

        And you’re angry about HIS opinion and think he’s wrong. That’s how sports debates go. You can even get “rankled” if you want. Hopefully, however, you see the hypocrisy in your comment.

        • MCD says:

          I don’t see any hypocrisy in Steve’s comment at all. However, I see a significant difference between “you’re just wrong about this” and “I disagree with you”. I’m sure a lot of people, evaluate those as congruent statements, but to me, and I presume Steve, the former phrase erroneously paints the speaker’s opinion as fact, while the latter makes it clear that it is opinion.

          The comment by wogggs was civil and not harsh, but I do see where the phrase “you’re just wrong about this” could be a little off-putting to some.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        He’s not saying you don’t have a “right” to your opinion, just that he thinks that your opinion in this case is wrong. I can say that, in my opinion, the earth is flat and I have a right to that opinion but that opinion would be wrong. Now, I agree saying “you are just wrong” is annoying, especially in that this is not a factual question but truly a matter of opinion. I think it was probably just a bit of over-enthusiasm rather than an attempt to stifle Joe’s opinion.

  2. TomK says:

    Well, you have my sympathies. I has Grover Cleveland Alexander (~$11 million season) lose to Dazzy Vance ($0.64 million season) in game 7 of the finals in a SOM on-line league, and I’m sure everyone who’s played more than a little has a similar tale of woe.

    I also agree in preferring more emphasis on the regular season over playoffs.

    But I must object to calling SOM “fantasy”. To me, that’s acquired a secondary meaning around what once was called “rotisserie”. A whole different deal than Strat. (Maybe you figured some mook would say this; sorry it had to be me.)

  3. Mike says:

    This is one of the reason I think the league champion should be recognized as the team in each league with the best record at the end of the regular season, rather than the team that won two series (or two series and one game). Make the regular season count at least toward something. And then if a team wins the World Series too, we can recognize them as having won a “double” like teams in the Premier League.

  4. Gonzo says:

    I also play 365 Strat, and it seems to me that you were in an easier division. The 92-win team may actually have been the better team based on strength of schedule. I’ve observed this many times already in Strat…

  5. Len says:

    Obviously the solution is to go back to sixteen teams in two leagues and just have the World Series between the two pennant winners.

    Yes, I’m kidding. I mean, apart from the fact that I don’t care about them, playoffs are fine. The season ends for me when my team plays its last game. For more than a decade now, that has been Game #162. I do remember who won the last two World Series, though I expect I’ll forget in another season or two. I don’t remember the winner of any World Series before that since, uh, 2001? (Oh wait, I do remember the Red Sox won a couple, though I don’t know which years.) I remember them all from 1950 to 1970.

    • Cuban X Senators says:

      So, 32 teams in 4 leagues then. It’s actually been my (hopeless) fantasy for a few decades now.

    • Jeff A. says:

      I actually would love to see the pennant winners in two leagues play a best of 7 or best of 9 playoff for the world series. Playoffs are idiotic in baseball. Pennant race is far more exciting. Next thing you know baseball will be like football, and we’ll have sub-.500 teams making the playoffs. Woo – can’t wait for that nonsense!

  6. PaulH says:

    Without the playoffs, would anyone remember the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers?

    • SDG says:

      Gibson’s home run, though.

      Do you get moments like that if all you have is a long string of regular games, where often the winner is mathematically-determined way before the end of the season?

      • Patrick says:

        Runaway winners aren’t as common as you’d think. Going back 10 years

        2015: Cardinals win 100 wins, Pittsburgh win 98
        2014: Angels win 98, Orioles and Nationals win 96
        2013: Cardinals and Red Sox win 97, Braves and A’s win 96
        2012: Nationals win 98, Reds win 97
        2011: Phillies win 102, Yankees win 97
        2010: Philiies win 97, Rays win 96
        2009: Yankees win 103, Angels win 97
        2008: Angels win 100, Rays win 97
        2007: Indians and Red Sox win 96
        2006: Yankees and Mets win 97.

        Three times, two teams finished with the exact same total, eight times out of 10, the teams were within two years.

        Sure, there are runaways (2001, 1998 and 1995 would be examples.) But there are relatively non-competitive postseasons as well. In 1989 for example, both LCS ended in five games, and the World Series featured a four-game sweep with three blowouts and one blowout turned close game. In 1998, no series went to a deciding game, and there were three sweeps. In 2007, *five* of the seven series ended in sweeps—although the 2007 ALCS featured a great comeback (the individual games weren’t great though.)

    • Patrick says:

      Flip side to that question: Without the playoffs, would the 1995 Cleveland Indians and 2001 Seattle Mariners be so forgotten?

      • MikeN says:

        I think it’s the 95 Braves who are forgotten. Cleveland was very good that year. And of course they were the road team in the first round despite runaway 100+ wins in a shortened season, just because they were from the Central Division.

        • Patrick says:

          The Braves are remembered, in part, because they’re the only Atlanta team of all those division winners.

          “And of course they were the road team in the first round despite runaway 100+ wins in a shortened season, just because they were from the Central Division.”

          MLB’s random assigning of home field advantage was borderline idiotic

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Those are different situations. Cleveland lost in the World Series, Seattle lost in the second round. I don’t think Joe or anyone else is suggesting that we do away with the World Series.

  7. Frog says:

    non-American here. I never understood the divisions – what purpose do they serve?

    • KHAZAD says:

      When a league has alot of teams, it makes it easier to schedule when you have divisions. There are more games against division opponents.

      Scheduling a long baseball season with 30 teams is more difficult than people realize. There are already “suggestions” as to how to change the schedule in some way above, and I am sure there will be more. There is a very good chance that none of them will come up with schedules that would actually work. (Certainly none have so far) All they do is take two numbers and multiply them, and they think they are done.

      They are not. You have to have a certain number of series and a certain number of days off, (but not too many, because it would make the season too long) You have to balance out the home and road games, and make the schedule feasible for travel etc. and that is just the start. It is however, a start all the people that want to fix everything never get to. They just stand behind the starting line, punch two numbers in a calculator, and walk away.

      • Frog says:

        ok, I get divisons as a way to ease scheduling and travel in a sport that plays nearly daily. The part though that I find troubling is the result that you play more games against the teams in the division. That hardly seems fair as a way to determine who is best across the league… (hence the need for playoffs…)

        But… in the NFL there are also divisions and they play only 1 game per week – scheduling and travel aren’t a factor.

        I put it to you that this is an American thing (he claimed wildly).

        • KHAZAD says:

          With so many teams, it is also a way (particularly in the NFL) to fix the differences in record that come from playing disparate schedules. The teams within the divisions have 14 of the 16 games against the same opponents, so there is some difference, but a team in another division might only have a couple. As each division plays two other divisions, competing for best record against a team that by sheer luck, might have played easy divisions and may even be in one, while you are in a tougher division and played two tough divisions outside your division would be problematic.

          With only 16 games and 32 teams there is going to be alot of strength of schedule differences.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I think you have to understand that it’s in part an homage to the traditional leagues. At one time, there were 16 teams (and later 20) divided into two leagues; the teams in one league did not play the teams in the other. At the end of the regular season, the teams with the most wins in each league met in the World Series. In some years, the “pennant races” would be decided by a game or two. I think the divisions, and certainly the unbalanced schedule, is an effort to replicate the old-time pennant races, which resonate with a lot of baseball fans, especially the older ones like me. At one time, the World Series was the capstone of American sports, similar to (although never as hyped) as the Super Bowl is today. Some people, including me, believe that the proliferation of playoffs has devalued the World Series because lesser teams-or at least teams with fewer wins-often get in. But with the increase in the number of teams; from 20 to now 30, I think it was thought that there were too many teams to have no playoffs. Moreover, there is more revenue from more playoff rounds.
          In addition, the divisions reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, team rivalries that developed in the early part of the 20th century and they are an effort to maintain those rivalries by having, say, the Cubs and Cardinals or Giants/Dodgers play each other more often. So, it is sort of an American thing, in the sense that it reflects the historical development of baseball.

    • invitro says:

      Divisions create rivalries, which increase fan interest, which increases ticket sales, which increases income.

      • Patrick says:

        Yes, I forgot how the Dodgers/Giants, Cardinals/Cubs, and Yankees/Red Sox rivalries weren’t actual things prior to 1969

        • Brett Alan says:

          The point is that in an eight or ten team league, you played your rivals a lot anyway. In a 16 team league, without divisions, you wouldn’t, especially with the addition of interleague games.

  8. PJS says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Joe. I love baseball, but 1968 was the last real season. One of the many reasons I love the Premier League — no freakin’ playoffs. Leicester probably would have lost in the first round and been forgotten.

    • Johnnysoda says:

      Yeah, it would be nice for the best team to have no playoffs. For fans of the other 28 teams who aren’t the best in their league, it wouldn’t be quite as fun.

      Not to mention, the leagues would make way less money without the playoffs, and we’d be robbed of a lot of great LDS and LCS moments.

  9. Jesse K. says:

    Count me among the boring, old-fashioned 10 %. I’m a Cardinals fan. and it was disappointing to lose in the playoffs to the third-place team last year. Lest anyone think I am bitter, I’ll be the first to say the Cardinals were the *worst* team to make the playoffs in 2006 and 2011, when they won the World Series. (On the other hand, they were the *best* team to make the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, and failed to win the World Series each time.) Obviously, I still root for my team; the two World Series runs were thrilling. And despite being 11 games behind the Cubs, they are only half a game out of a playoff spot, which is more exciting and hopeful than if they had to make up those 11 games. But the Cubs (and several other teams) are clearly better, and I think it is a little unfair that the Cardinals might get hot and knock them out in a short series.

    As Joe says, “I get it”. I get that by having wild cards, a team that is 10 games behind the division leader can still be very much alive in September, sustaining fan interest and increasing revenue. But the regular season loses much of its meaning. I like that it’s a long, hard race, but since it’s all about playoffs now, the regular season doesn’t have to be nearly as long as it is. Based on the Cardinals’ history this century, I should be more excited that they’re in good wild-card position than if THEY had the 11-game lead. Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Jesse, I agree with you, but I think going back to the old system is impractical. I remember 1968 and, yes, the Cardinals/Tigers World Series was classic and those were great teams. But the pennant races were effectively over by August. That wasn’t always the case, obviously, but some of the teams were largely eliminated by June.

      • Jesse K. says:

        Marc, you’re right, it is impractical. As KHAZAD wrote below, it would destroy the game financially to get rid of the playoffs. (Moreover, it would irritate almost all Major League Baseball fans.)

  10. mark says:

    I’ve all but lost interest in baseball because of this, which is shocking. It was my favorite sport to play, watch and follow for 40 years. But 162 regular season games to eliminate only 2/3 of the teams makes regular season baseball games the least important singular events in modern sports. Then some random team gets hot and wins. Bleh.
    Then you have ridiculous anomalies like last year where teams with 2 of the 3 best records in baseball had to play one game, one stupid game, to eliminate one of them at the very start of the playoffs, while 5 teams with decidedly worse records were rewarded with a bye. By the way, citing to imbalanced schedules doesn’t answer this, because those three teams had to play each other nearly 25% of their schedule and still had the 3 best records in baseball.
    Like Mike, I would prefer that the league champions were based on the regular season. but I would actually call them the pennant winners and the team that emerges from the playoffs anything else. But leagues are close to irrelevant now except as a grouping of divisions that organizes which teams sit on the two sides of the playoff bracket.
    Thanks Joe. This post could have come straight from my head, except for the StratOMatic envelope. I’ve had this exact conversation with many friends, and yes, 90% disagree and don’t care. Life goes on, with or without baseball that has meaning.

    • KHAZAD says:

      The imbalanced schedule has quite a bit to do with it. They were all three good teams, but there record was padded by a horribly weak schedule. All three of those teams played 64 games against teams that lost more than 90 games. The Royals played 14 such games. All 64 of those games came against teams that had those bad records despite playing in what was (at least in 2015) by far the inferior league. The AL had a .557 winning percentage against the NL last year. That is over a 90 win pace in a season. If you want to talk about injustice because these three teams did not make the World Series and the Mets did, you should also talk about the fact that there were 4 or 5 AL teams better than the Mets that didn’t even make the playoffs, or that the ALCS losing Blue Jays were a better team in 2015 than all three of the of the teams with padded records in the NL that didn’t make it.

      I have mixed feelings about the wild card as well, but as we have three divisions in each league who play decidedly different schedules, they have to add a 4th team somehow, and I don’t mind the wild card game to determine which non division winning team gets a shot.

      I don’t go as far back as just having two pennant winners, but I did grow up with 4 divisions and just a league championship series when you had to win a 6 or 7 team division just to make it. I find it ironic that you begin a comment hearkening back to times of less teams making it by bitching about 2 teams that couldn’t finish first in a 5 team division that plays virtually the same schedules. They should have considered themselves lucky to have the shot.

      • You can slice and dice all you want, but together Chicago St. Louis and Pittsburgh had 126 wins in 228 Division games for a .553 winning percentage in their division, and 169 wins in 258 NonDivision games for a .655 winning percentage outside their division. The imbalanced schedule killed them by forcing them to play each other so much, and they still ended up with the 3 best records in baseball.

        • KHAZAD says:

          The imbalanced schedule helped them because they played 64% of their schedule against other crappy NL teams. They did have a .654 winning percentage against those teams, but that is nothing special. The AL playoff teams combined for a .659 winning percentage against NL teams other than your big three. If they had played 64% of their games against such a crappy schedule instead of 11% (while playing slightly more games against either each other or your big three than the big three played against each other) one of them would have definitely had a better record.

          It is because of the imbalanced schedules that looking at the best regular season record, which is sometimes as in these cases, propped up by playing lower level competition, means nothing.

          And I must mention that arguing against playoffs while crying about the plight of 2nd and 3rd place teams makes absolutely no sense.

  11. Bpdelia says:

    Agreed. Baseball playoffs are stupid. The only way to make it better are longer series. I hate the idea of winning the championship without having to use your fifth starter. Hell even your forth.

    They should go back to the early years. An 11 game world series. All playoff series should be seven games.

    The wild cards get only one at home.

  12. frog says:

    could if course do away with the regular season and go straight into a 162 game playoffs from opening day.

  13. Patrick says:

    I’d get rid of the playoffs too.

    Instead, have teams play each of the other 29 teams six times. One three-game series at home, one on the road. You wind up with 174 games per team, not that much different than what teams that go to the WS play today. Can settle ties via H2H results/run differential.

    • KHAZAD says:

      You are looking at a 29 and a half week season, drastically decreased attendance, and network money cut by at least half. It would destroy the game financially to satisfy a few purists.

      IF you want to recognize the regular season champion, go ahead and do that for yourself. Also, when they add two teams in the next decade, are you going to expand the schedule to 186 games. OK, that is probably a moot point, because under your system the league would probably end up contracting instead for financial reasons.

  14. Johnny B says:

    I’m a pennant-race guy, too, so I would reformat the playoffs to look like a pennant race: Six teams make the playoffs in each league, and they would play a 15-game round robin, with 3 games against each of the other 5 teams. The team with the best record during the season gets 4 home series and 1 away series; the second- and third-best record teams get 3 home series; the fourth- and fifth-best get 2 home series, and the sixth seed gets just 1 home series. (It would work.) Whichever team has the best record in those 15 games goes to the World Series. In case of a tie, there is a one-game playoff. It’s just a small increase in games over the current Wild Card Game + LDS + LCS, which can go to 13 games. It rewards teams that are deep and replicates the scrum of a pennant race. There would be 3 games in each league every day, and fans in all six cities would care about every game. The biggest obstacle would be dealing with teams that are mathematically eliminated in the last couple of games, but I think you could build in incentives.

  15. Reagan says:

    Joe and some others,

    Most of the arguments against playoffs are also arguments against the World Series (the luck factor in a short series, in particular). There is no rational basis to exclude the series on the basis of the points raised against the rest of the playoffs. As I was reading the article, I thought that Joe was about to go there, but he didn’t.

    If you want to say keep the series because I like it, then the pro-playoff people have as much validity to say keep the playoffs because I like it.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      It’s certainly an argument against the World Series, but I think, personally, that there is a big difference between losing in the championship round and losing in the first round. it doesn’t have to be an either-or-argument, ie, either have the champion completely decided by the regular season (no World Series) or have the regular season be effectively meaningless. IMO, the World Series has become far less significant and less compelling in recent years. I suspect that’s, in part, because of having inferior teams making it, and perhaps, also, having the teams being so tired by the time they get there that the quality of play isn’t that good. It bothers me that the World Series, which used to be a key part, not just of sports, but of American culture, has lost so much of its relevance. Do people really care about the World Series if their team isn’t playing in it? I do, but less so when you have two mediocre wild card teams, as in 2014, playing. I’m sorry to offend Giants/Royals fans, but they were the 7th and 8th best teams in baseball.

    • Jeff A. says:

      A World Series should feature the best team in each league playing for a championship. What the current configuration gives us is the chance to watch the 3rd best team in one league play against the 5th best team in the other league to see who is the champion (once upon a time champion = “best team”, but now that definition is laughable).

  16. JoeFan says:

    The playoffs are here to stay, so the best we can do is debate how to make the regular season more meaningful. Here’s my proposal: 4 8-team divisions with a 156 game schedule (12 games against each division opponent and 3 games against each of the other 24 teams). To crown each division champion, the 3rd place team plays a single elimination game at the 2nd place team. The 1st place team then hosts a best-of-5 playoff against the winner (all home games for the 1st place team with no off days). The 2 division champs in each league then play a traditional best-of-7 to crown the league champion followed by the World Series.

  17. AB says:

    I read, and post, at this site mainly because Joe really knows how to tell a story, of course.

    But now too, because Steve got rankled. (Go Steve!)

    A good ranklement, someone getting rankled, or any rankle involving sports discussion is good for society. Now, lets get rid of the helmets and pads in football. Anyone with me?

  18. Tom says:

    I agree with Joe and I like the EPL’s way of determining their Champion. But we all need to realize that sports are entertainment designed to make money, just like movies, TV, etc. And that money ultimately comes from the fans. Playoffs exist to make more money. Baseball’s playoff structure is designed to keep more teams’ fans interested, and therefore generating revenue, for longer during the season. Any idea that a sport’s playoff structure should have some sort of moral basis for fairly determining the best team is fanciful. Sorry, I am a baseball fan, but that’s the truth.

    • Charlie B says:

      Much easier for the Premier League to do that with the geography (I’d guess that the longest away match would be something like Newcastle/Southampton which would still be MUCH closer than say Seattle/LA (in the same division and time zone) and only playing once or twice a week. Add in only 20 teams and it makes a balanced schedule much easier (as has already been mentioned above).

      I notice how all that mention how much better it works in English soccer don’t discuss the FA Cup (one game knockout match) or the Champions League (European playoff system where a 4th place team in a league can win the title of best of Europe).

  19. Tampa Mike says:

    I completely agree Joe. I would go back to a 4 team playoff. League Championship Series, World Series… That’s it. 162 game season is long enough to determine who belongs and who doesn’t.

  20. Bruce Nave says:

    I’m with you, Joe. In 1975, I was 18 years old. Our American Legion team, Alexandria Post 24, had come through a grueling 30 game regular season, which was a three way pennant race with Springfield Post 176 and Groveton (Post # not recalled). We had played each team in our division four times in the regular season and I think these three teams either tied for first or there was one game separating us. Then the playoffs started. The fourth place team, Mt. Vernon (Post 162 maybe?) had not been a contender. We were 4-0 against them. But if you’re gonna have playoffs, you have to have four teams, right? As the top seed, we drew them in the first round – and beat them. Now we’re 5-0 against them. We beat Springfield in the winner’s bracket final. Mt. Vernon upset Springfield in the loser’s bracket. We now had to beat Mt. Vernon once in two games to advance.

    Of course, we lost both games. They ended up 2-5 against us for the year. They advanced to the next round; we went home.

    Playoffs are inherently unfair. I get it.

  21. Dave B says:

    I’ve come to dislike the playoffs in baseball, too. I think it’s a shame that, in American sports, the championship is the only thing that matters. The Patriots going 16-0 (well, up to 18-0, actually) is not celebrated because they lost the Super Bowl. Nor are you allowed to call them the greatest team ever, or probably even rank then in the top ten, because they peaked too soon. I’d love for baseball to go back to just one playoff team per league. Let’s have the AL champ face the NL champ, and get the two best teams in the World Series for a change.

  22. Matt Trowbridge says:

    The only reason we have playoffs is because the NFL had a playoff game to break a tie one year and discovered how much money they could make. … Playoffs have little to do with deciding a deserving champion and almost everything to do with making more money. … And unbalanced schedules are NOT a reason to have playoffs. … The only reason there are unbalanced schedules, is because there ARE playoffs. There would be no divisions without playoffs, hence no divisional play.

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