Cheating scandal? What cheating scandal?
February 13, 2020 3:22 AM   Subscribe

Major League Baseball proposes huge expansion of playoffs So, what’s the controversy all about? It involves a proposal to up the number of playoff teams in each league to seven from the current five, while adding games to the wildcard round. In a sport that sells nostalgia as part of its package, any alteration of the postseason is enough to draw the ire of traditionalists. [Details below]

* three divisional champions and four wildcard teams in each league would make the playoffs

* the division winner with the best overall record in each league would receive a bye to the best-of-five games divisional series

* the wildcard round would change from a one-game knockout to a best-of-three-games series

* the division winner with the second-best record in the league would get first choice of which wildcard team to face, and that team would host all three games

* the division winner with the third-best record in the league would get the second choice of which team to face and also host all three games

* the two wildcard teams that were not chosen would face each other, with the wildcard team with the best record hosting two of the three games

* there would be a Sunday night playoff selection television show on the last night of baseball’s regular season where division winners would pick the teams they want to face
posted by Kirth Gerson (97 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am not a traditionalist, and frankly I care very little about baseball anymore, but I have to question the wisdom of any decision that makes an already internminable regular season even more meaningless.
posted by NBelarski at 3:38 AM on February 13 [29 favorites]


They should give out roses.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:54 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Are they trying to outdo the NHL, where the regular season is 7 months and the postseason is 7 weeks?
posted by at by at 4:00 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Will we be watching the World Series over our Thanksgiving turkey?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:07 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I will continue to shout at clouds about the fact that any wildcard system in baseball is hot garbage. Since teams play such an unbalanced schedule, it is competitively indefensible to compare the records of teams across divisions (and arguably even within divisions, given the "interleague rivalry" thing).
posted by Rock Steady at 4:18 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Wake me up when they introduce promotion and relegation.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 4:19 AM on February 13 [28 favorites]


I missed the memo that there was a "wild card game" for years where there wasn't a tie in the wild card race, so this proposal came as especially jarring.

Then again, I guess I'm not the target for this, as I wasn't paying attention to baseball anyway.
posted by explosion at 4:22 AM on February 13


In other news the World Series will now be referred to as the “Winter Classic.”
posted by terrapin at 4:30 AM on February 13 [24 favorites]


This is a ludicrous suggestion. And don't EVEN get me started on the "Live Sunday announcement of which team gets which team to play in the post-season."
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:36 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Baseball attendance has been declining, and their attendee demographics aging, for... what, a decade now? More? I don’t think this will turn it around, but hey. Gotta try something, I guess?
posted by mhoye at 4:42 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


This is definitely the worst thing to have happened in the world of baseball this offseason.

DEFINITELY.

(p.s. are we doing fantasy baseball this year?)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:49 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The margins of winning of a baseball game are slim. The best team typically loses 40% of its games. Spread out over 162 games, the better teams press ahead and you believe those numbers that say a best team is 28 games ahead of the worst team. In the playoffs, it is quite probable that that worst team will win over a period that will give them 3 out of 5 or 4 out of 7.

This contrasts with basketball. In one game, the 16th seed has never beaten the 1st. In basketball, you have 33 game winning streaks. In the last 100 years, the longest winning streak is 22 games with a lot more games played.

In effect, this will destroy brand identity. You don't have to be a good team, you just have to have a streak and you will clobber all of the power of the Dodgers or the Yankees or the Red Sox, whatever team that actually tried to have competence fit for 162 games. You will soon have that 45% winning team in the World Series. That won't even build a lot of loyalty among the winning hometown. They will see how their team has sucked all year long.

Maybe this is the New Coke: being run as a trial to make people remember old Coke.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:04 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Worth noting is that expanding the wild card from one game to a three game series would only add two days to the season, because all three games are to be played back-to-back in the same city.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:07 AM on February 13


What I really hope is that they get the DH to the NL for 2022. It's absurd that pitchers who haven't hit regularly since they were teenagers risk their health to do an abysmal job at hitting to massage stubborn people's ideas of tradition.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:11 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


This contrasts with basketball. In one game, the 16th seed has never beaten the 1st.

No longer true! [eventually, things got better for Virginia]
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:14 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Wake me up when they introduce promotion and relegation.

They are moving in the other direction by cutting the number of farm teams so their will be even less minor league baseball.
posted by srboisvert at 5:23 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


According to one writer over at Fangraphs, the proposal might actually make teams less likely to go all out to win since, by his numbers, it would make winning a division but not the league less valuable than under the current system, which could carry larger than expected ramifications in how teams approach the trade deadline, among other things.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:23 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The recent cheating scandal has gotten me to think about major league baseball for the first time in years. Which is obviously a sign more baseball isn't the solution to the problem of it being irrelevant.
posted by tommasz at 5:27 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Which is obviously a sign more baseball isn't the solution to the problem of it being irrelevant.

Is any sport actually relevant?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:33 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


I don't necessarily think the idea of expanding the playoffs to more teams is inherently bad, but this seems like kind of a weird and rather complex way of doing it. They want the first and second division winners to pick their opponents on live television? Are there other major sports where higher seeds pick their opponents (as opposed to higher seeds automatically facing lower seeds)?

Also weird that they want to add more excitement to the league by making the playoffs more important compared to the regular season, but still want to stick to the 162-game season that people will be even less inclined to follow now.
posted by chrominance at 5:34 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Is any sport actually relevant?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?
posted by Fizz at 5:50 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


What will they call the first round now? I've seen people calling it the wild card round, but four of the teams in it will be division winners. So that's weird.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:08 AM on February 13


From the FPP title, I came to say that if I were the commissioner I would suspend the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year. But I see that wasn't really the topic of the post. So I guess it's off-topic to say that if I were the commissioner I would suspend the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year. If anyone wants to flag this comment for being off-topic when I say that if I were the commissioner I would suspend the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year, I would understand.
posted by hypnogogue at 6:17 AM on February 13 [28 favorites]


Clearly what we need, based on how well it’s gone in other venues like elections, is a lengthening of a contest or elimination process. Why have any presumption of a “pre-playoff” at all?

Why not make the entire season playoffs?

And maybe all but, say, 2 teams are automatically in on day two. And then we can extend the playoff season (thanks global warming!) to add on another month, say.

And when attendance still drops, and ticket prices continue to increase and cities continue to foot the bill for stadiums, and the investment turns out to be lousy, maybe we can bring back an old format, just for old time’s sake.
posted by hijinx at 6:18 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


The reason they're not doing that (suspending the entire org) is because it's widely believed at least two and probably a half dozen teams have engaged in similar behavior... They can't cancel two fifths of the league.

Plus, on a human level, the ballpark vendors, PR people, maintenance staff, and myriad other working people who support the Astros didn't do anything wrong and don't deserve to have their lives detonated.

I understand the sentiment though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:22 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Ugh, this is a terrible idea. If baseball wants to stay relevant to younger audiences, there are things it can do, but this ain't it. Be genuinely and more explicitly inclusive: stadiums can still be hostile places, and teams don't seem to be doing much to change that culture. We need more women involved in baseball, not just in broadcasting and reportage but also on staff, managing, or hell, I'm even cool with seeing women on the field. It's time to open that part of things up. That the Blue Jays, who are here Toronto, home to one of the largest Pride events in the world, took so long to start having Pride events of their own is appalling. Baseball isn't hockey, so it's never going to have the kind of support here in Canada that those teams do, especially not now that basketball has also taken off here, but there's so much more that could be done to reach out to kids from different communities, especially disadvantaged communities, to make them feel like baseball will welcome them. And then they need to actually fucking welcome them with visible, vocal, material support.

For current adult fans who are disappearing, one of the biggest things they can do is end blackout restrictions, even if just for their online service. I watch a lot of baseball, and I get to see or listen to every Blue Jays came on MLB.tv because the team owners have lifted all blackout restrictions. But if I could only watch a few, based on what was being broadcast on a cable service I don't have? Yeah, I'd go back to watching only a handful of games a year.

Lots can be done, but it will take time, goodwill, and a lot of it is stuff that won't be legible to the owners and other suits in the league.
posted by Fish Sauce at 6:22 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Personally, if bringing in a few more teams allows both the replacement of the single game wild card format (which is deeply stupid) with a series and the right to a bye for the best two teams, I consider it a welcome improvement.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:29 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The possible contraction of the minor leagues is a weird one.

On the one hand, the argument that there are too many minor league teams and that the same developmental goals could be satisfied with four affiliates per big league team instead of five or six is transparently true.

On the other, the league's stated secondary goal, that eliminating the superfluous teams would allow the clubs to raise salaries is nonsensical.

The cost to give every single player in a farm system a $20,000 raise would be $2.5-4MM per club... around the cost of a backup infielder. Throw in an extra half million a year per affiliate for improved conditioning, nutrition, and amenities and they could dramatically overhaul the health, productivity, development and happiness of their entire minor league organization for around the price of a platoon outfielder.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:40 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Baseball attendance has been declining, and their attendee demographics aging, for... what, a decade now? More? I don’t think this will turn it around, but hey. Gotta try something, I guess?

MLB is focused on simultaneously shaving minutes from every game and adding days to the schedule while they ignore region-blocking on MLB tv and it drives me bananas. I know they're different goals and different topics, but still
posted by Think_Long at 6:40 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Shorter games would be better. More teams in the playoffs is one thing; a selection show is quite another.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:40 AM on February 13


Is any sport actually relevant?

I mean, from a diplomacy standpoint soccer's pretty relevant

But I'd argue that, from a cultural standpoint, sport plays a vital role in community-building and the forming of in-groups, and, vitally, out-groups. Humans need out-groups, it's one of our fundamental psychological needs. (Just look at how MetaFilter reacts whenever you mention Reddit.) Sport allows societies to form in-groups and out-groups that cut across class, racial and ethnic divides - if you live in New York, and you support the Yankees, we have something in common, you're part of my tribe, and I know that no matter where you come from, what kind of culture you have, at least you're not a Mets fan.

There have been studies that have shown that sports fans can be primed to see their rival teams' fans as part of their in-group by showing them something that makes them feel good about the sport, not just their team.

The great thing about sporting teams is that buy-in is relatively easy, even for recent immigrants - you learn the basic rules, you pick a team, you show up to the game with the right colours and you're already fitting in - and it's something that can create a positive bias stronger than the latent negative bias people have towards non-white ethnicities, but not so important that there are regular hate crimes against rival team supporters.
posted by Merus at 6:54 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile, they’re happy to try to sell me the season streaming package at $129.99... oh but I can’t watch the Diamondbacks because they’re blacked out. The secret to getting fans back isn’t gimmicks. It’s engagement and MLB has been terrible at that the last 15 or so years. It’s a shame because it’s an era with some of the best players MLB has ever seen. Mike Trout’s numbers are among the all-time greats and yet many people know pretty much about him. Meet your fans halfway and don’t just wait for them to come to you and wonder where they are. You already have a good product. Be accessible. Be engaging.

(Side rant: the Diamondbacks under Coangelo built a team that was a source of regional pride. Then the other partners forced him out and started acting more like Baseball, Inc. The AAA team in Tucson was sold to owners who moved the team to Reno. Then they moved spring training from Tucson to Scottsdale. Engagement? There was once a huge presence in Tucson and Diamondbacks gear was everywhere. People were buying playoff tickets at the stadium in Tucson in 2001. Now... they’re invisible here. Look at the stadium on typical weeknight games and even a lot of weekend games. It’s 3/4 empty. It wasn’t always like this even when the team was losing because they knew how to engage. That went out the window with the new ownership group. And now it’s been found that they’ve signed NDAs with other cities to explore moving to the new shiny stadium that they’ve been chasing after only 20 years. If you don’t want to be here, why would your fans want to be at the games?)
posted by azpenguin at 7:06 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


With regard to "picking one's opponents," it's the way to maintain the integrity of the sport. If match-ups are pre-determined, you can end up with weird situations:

1st gets their bye, and now imagine that the 2nd place team is actually weaker than the 3rd place team (3rd place had a rocky start, but has been strong in the second half of the season). So if you're a middling team, it's better to come in 7th (play against 2 first round) instead of 6th (play against the stronger 3).

You never, ever want a perverse incentive where losing a game is an optimal situation. If the winningest teams get to pick their opponents, there's no jockeying for a specific lower seed.

The 2012 badminton "scandal" came about because the organizers did not understand how to build a tournament, and players were put into the situation where losing the match gave them a better chance to win the tournament.
posted by explosion at 7:07 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


This means that fans [under a particular set of circumstances] would no longer have reason to whine.

The eternal fan response to this sort of prediction: "Challenge accepted"
posted by solotoro at 7:20 AM on February 13


sometimes I think they should baseball should just own its essence and change the name of the game to RELAX.

by which I mean, who cares if attendance is declining, TV numbers are down, yadda-yadda-yadda ... maybe the problem is that it's all become Too Big Of A Deal. Let all the stresses blow out of the game, lose the f***ing billion dollar salaries, remove all the MEGA from the discussion, I've never enjoyed a big deal live Major League game in a big deal major league stadium as much as I have some minor league affairs in smaller ballparks, in smaller markets, on hot summer evenings, with the sun finally setting ...
posted by philip-random at 7:24 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


So I guess it's off-topic to say that if I were the commissioner I would suspend the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year.

Well, since I referred to the scandal in the headline, I'd say it's not off-topic to say they should suspend the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year. As an alternative, instead of suspending the entire Houston Astros organization for one entire year, they could relegate the entire Houston Astros organization to AAA for one entire year.

I don't like the farm-team pruning. There's an A team that plays 10 minutes from my house, and those games are a lot more fun than the major team's games 40 minutes away. The AAA team is apparently moving to a site an hour away (10 minutes closer than where they've been), but I'm not so likely to go there.

The eternal fan response to this sort of prediction: "Challenge accepted"

Yeah, that looks like so much wishful thinking.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:24 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


the wildcard round would change from a one-game knockout to a best-of-three-games series
I unequivocally like this part. The "one-and-done" wildcard game has bugged me because nowhere else in baseball, absent a tiebreaker, has a single deciding anything. I'm not sure about the rest of it, but if we get a proper three-game series out of Bud Selig's "what if every season had an exciting game at the end of the regular season?" brainstorm, I'm willing to give it a go.
posted by fireoyster at 7:28 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


lose the f***ing billion dollar salaries

The salaries are a reflection of the labor provided to the owners and the value provided to the people paying to watch, broadcast, and advertise on games. Players already get barely half of the overall revenues.
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on February 13 [10 favorites]


This is stupid and anybody who thinks more MLB playoffs are a good idea is stupid. The homo economises running it will not stop even after the first world series game gets snowed out. The NFL is adding a 17th regular season game because they just have to have that additional 1 / 17 th amount of money (that's almost 6%!) and the NBA already has it so any player who can afford to do so (the top 25 or so players) doesn't even really start working hard and wearing out their ankles, knees, and hips until the season is a third done with.
posted by bukvich at 7:36 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


If they can't fill their stadium seats, make whole sections cheap. Make it a reverse pride honor to be in the cheap seats and make that experience fun. Make whole sections family seats and have $20 for four of them. Better to sell 5,000 seats at $5 than to have them empty.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:39 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


> The "one-and-done" wildcard game has bugged me because nowhere else in baseball, absent a tiebreaker, has a single deciding anything.

In 1962 the Dodgers and Giants tied for the National League pennant and they improvised a three game tie breaker series.
posted by bukvich at 7:39 AM on February 13


This idea is so dumb I have to think it was an attempt to distract from the ever-worsening Astros cheating scandal.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:43 AM on February 13


My first thought is that MLB wanted to guarantee that at least one Los Angeles team and one New York team would always make the playoffs to max out the television ratings.

I'm a Blue Jays fan, and I never watch playoff baseball unless the Jays are in it. The games start late at night (I'm an early bird), they go on and on with about eight pitching changes per team per game, and the announcers are so deadly serious all the time. It's too much like football.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:54 AM on February 13


I'm late to the comment party here but I want to go on record as saying that this whole playoff expansion idea is the dumbest shit that I've heard of, and that Manfred should be taken to the locker room to be checked for a concussion.

I agree that baseball needs to fix their broadcasting issues. I'm a die-hard radio listener but my dad watches the games. A few years ago we went through a stupid time in which the Twins were trying to launch their own cable station (and charge an arm and a leg for it), claiming that it would provide a "whole baseball experience". It got shot down so hard it's probably still descending through the mantle of the earth. But we're lucky in MN that they broadcast games on the regional Fox sports cable network, at not too much extra of a cost with basic cable.

If they started requiring a subscription to even listen to the games I would start spewing fire and Sparks like one of those little wind-up dinosaurs. We rent cars when we take road trips and always shell out a bit extra for Sirius so that we can listen to the Twins, but hell if I'm going to pay to do that when I live six miles from the stadium.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:14 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


> The "one-and-done" wildcard game has bugged me because nowhere else in baseball, absent a tiebreaker, has a single deciding anything.

The Red Sox and Yankees also had a tiebreaker in 1978.
posted by kokaku at 8:18 AM on February 13


The Red Sox and Yankees also had a tiebreaker in 1978.

BUCKY #$##ING DENT
posted by davros42 at 8:20 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


Was about to chip in with the 1951 "shot heard 'round the world" Giants-Dodgers series, but we could be at this all day, so... List of Major League Baseball tie-breakers
posted by hangashore at 8:23 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Revision of streaming rights agreements to prevent local blackouts was a primary topic at this year's owner's meetings. Given that no changes have been announced, optimism that things might change for 2020 might have been overly optimistic. But they are definitely trying to untangle it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:25 AM on February 13


My first thought is that MLB wanted to guarantee that at least one Los Angeles team and one New York team would always make the playoffs to max out the television ratings.

I hadn't thought about it like that but the best player in professional baseball by leaps and bounds, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels, has played in exactly three career postseason games because the team as a whole cannot get their act together and you've got to assume the league doesn't see that as a good thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:27 AM on February 13


Anything to get the Mariners into the playoffs, I guess.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:28 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


As a non-sports person, I believe anything that will reduce the frequency of the Yankees being in the world series is a positive for the sport, business-wise. I read the Yankees spend something like 13 other teams combined, year-to-year. Which makes the whole thing even more ridiculous.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:33 AM on February 13


Fun fact on that note: Despite their enormous payroll, the Yankees have not played in a World Series since 2009. The 2010s were the first decade since the 1910s where they didn't appear once in the WS.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:36 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


The Yankees spend more than the bottom three teams combined, not thirteen.

And given that the Yanks are one of five teams spending roughly the same amount and have the largest, most profitable market, this is how it should be.

The real issue is the cheap bastards making the Marlins, Blue Jays, and Rays operate on comically low payrolls.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:42 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Imagine the heated discussion on whether to allow wild beasts into the gladiator bouts..

I'm not immune to the allure of watching a game of World Junior Hockey, and the Oilers/Flames rivalry just got re-heated and look at me trash-talking like it was last century, but still. It's all bread and circuses man, can't get truly and deeply bothered by any of this sh*t anymore.
posted by elkevelvet at 8:45 AM on February 13


Was about to chip in with the 1951 "shot heard 'round the world" Giants-Dodgers series, but we could be at this all day, so... List of Major League Baseball tie-breakers

While we're on the subject, there were five tiebreakers before they broke out into divisions: four three-game series in the NL (1946, 1951, 1959, 1962 - all involving the Dodgers) and one in the 1948 AL, which was a single game. Is this some weird difference between the leagues thing? (And were there really no ties before 1946?)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:56 AM on February 13


The real issue is the cheap bastards making the Marlins, Blue Jays, and Rays operate on comically low payrolls.

I mean, the marlins are just using player development for the purpose of wealth extraction, right? Aren't they even on the record about that? Talk about actively devaluing your franchise and fanbase
posted by Think_Long at 8:57 AM on February 13


This idea is so dumb I have to think it was an attempt to distract from the ever-worsening Astros cheating scandal.

1000%. They tried to sweep the cheating scandal under the rug, and it failed. They either did a deep investigation and found it was significantly worse than reported, or did the typical corporate tactic of doing no real investigation for plausible deniability. It's only gotten worse since December, now they're panicking, and this is one of the results.

This same league ignored the steroid era until they couldn't contain it, and this is the same league that denies they changed the baseball last year to induce more home runs, when both the eye test and statistical analysis make it plainly obvious. Business as usual. They're not literally evil like the NFL, but the way they approach business is no different from the behavior of a large modern corporation.
posted by MillMan at 8:58 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Shorter games would be better. More teams in the playoffs is one thing; a selection show is quite another.

[...]

sometimes I think they should baseball should just own its essence and change the name of the game to RELAX.
I really like that the games are long, although stuff like changing the pitcher for every single batter gets a bit much at times, and I'm glad they've looked into doing away with that. The older I get the more I appreciate the escape of the long, chill evening/afternoon of watching a game. I don't feel the need to be ramped up all the time. But then, one of my favourite baseball books is called The Utility of Boredom, and I'm also a curler/curling fan, so YMMV.
posted by Fish Sauce at 9:01 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Any expansion of playoffs should have a commensurate reduction in number of regular-season games. How about bringing back the old 154-game season, or even cutting that down a bit more?

Otherwise we see a further dilution in talent on the field during the season.

Same calculus often debated in the NBA and NFL, no?
posted by Jubal Kessler at 9:04 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


[gentle reminder: if you don't care about the topic it's okay to not comment in the thread.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:04 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I'm worried about a lockout when the current bargaining agreement ends. Players are getting screwed by the lack of salary floor, and the how long a player gets locked up on their initial contracts. Plus the owners have been treating the luxury tax as a defacto salary cap.
posted by Carillon at 9:05 AM on February 13


I used to be a huge baseball fan, but I haven't been to a game, or even watched an entire one on TV, in years. Know what didn't cause me to drift away from the sport I loved? How short the playoffs were.

I have no idea what problem they're trying to solve here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:10 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


But they are definitely trying to untangle it.

Yeah, will see.

Dodgers got $8B from TimeWarner (which is now Spectrum) for 20 years worth of TV right about 5 years ago. So, unless the Dodgers and/or MLB are willing to write a giant check, we're looking at 15 years for the great untangling, at least for the Dodgers. Most other teams have similar sorts of deals with giant money behind them.

Hell, the only reason the Dodgers sold for $2B was because a future TV rights deal could be made for so much money. Teams such as the Red Sox have also sold (relatively) recently for high prices based on TV rights. If the league came in and said to the teams "you no longer control your streaming rights!", billions of dollars of value would have to me written down overnight. The lawsuits might take us until 15 years from now anyway.

Anyway, it's not as simple as just voting to end the blackouts since literally billions of dollars are at stake.
posted by sideshow at 9:17 AM on February 13


Speaking of promotion/relegation: I've been tinkering with a crackpot plan on how you could implement it in MLB.

So: take the 30 teams in MLB now. Abolish the National and American Leagues, and in their place create one league for the top 14 teams by win-loss record, and another for the bottom 16 teams. Each league is divided into two divisions of 7 and 8, respectively. The division winners in the top league compete in the World Series, while the division winners in the bottom league compete in a new, not-World Series. Crucially, winning a division in the bottom league gets you promoted to the top league, while finishing last in either division of the top league gets you relegated to the bottom league.

This would be more enjoyable to watch over a season: it would eliminate the problematic wild card sudden-death games, and it would give underperforming teams an incentive to compete even if the World Series is out of their grasp -- either you're gunning for a promotion slot, or you're trying to avoid relegation. It's a crazy idea, perhaps, but honestly baseball needs some crazy ideas right now.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:17 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I have no idea what problem they're trying to solve here.

The title of the post defines exactly what you are asking about.
posted by sideshow at 9:18 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Rays operate on comically low payrolls.

The Rays are pretty brilliant, and maybe evilly so, for how they work with such a low budget, manipulating service time, flipping players, but all from a incredibly strong analytical framework where they consistently find good players from every source they have access to, the regular draft, international signings, trades, and waiver pick ups. They're extremely good at their business, but of course the business itself is more than a little suspect if one takes the side of the players instead of the team.

The problems with baseball run deep, in the Rays case, one of the more serious issues, from the standpoint of players under their control and which is also true of a few other teams like the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers particularly, is that they artificially hold down so many good players in their farm systems that would be viable major leaguers on other teams, costing those players a lot of potential income in making them wait to play until the Rays, or other teams, can extract the most value from them and their contracts. A guy like Nate Lowe on the Rays, or Kyle Tucker on the Astros, or Clint Frazier on the Yankees, would have a major league job on an open bidding market for contracts, but they are stuck in AAA waiting until the team that controls their rights chooses to make use of them.

That's far from the only problem of the current minor league system and MLB monopoly. Things like the disgustingly low pay minor leaguers get and even the way the players union for MLB negotiates are all fucked up. As useful as analytics has been for helping MLB teams get better, it's also extracting an increasing cost on players under the current bargaining system by being better able to identify young players who will be good and extracting maximum value from them while paying less to vets who have "paid their dues" in the minors and are looking to get real contracts. The MLB players union negotiates their CBA collectively, but the players negotiate their own contracts individually, placing the vets in direct competition with minor leaguers who aren't represented by the players union. The "pay your dues" rules the union follows hurts all but the best players, which MLB teams are all too aware of and eager to encourage.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:19 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The possible contraction of the minor leagues is a weird one

I wonder if any of this is because minor league play is a cheaper (more fun?) alternative and there are key markets where it's cannibalizing the feature product?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:42 AM on February 13


I wonder if any of this is because minor league play is a cheaper (more fun?) alternative and there are key markets where it's cannibalizing the feature product?

For a lot of the city, it's easier to get to a Brooklyn Cyclones or SI Yankees game then Queens or up to the Bronx. And orders of magnitude cheaper. And it's not a bad game of baseball.
posted by mikelieman at 9:54 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


[One comment removed - we don't really tell people to die in fires here. Maybe post your baseball comments with somewhat less incendiary rhetoric? ]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:35 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


and it would give underperforming teams an incentive to compete even if the World Series is out of their grasp

I'm afraid it would discourage the hell out of small-market, underfunded teams, and that they'd be relegated to the sub-major league forever.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:28 AM on February 13


Why in the world would any major league franchise in any American sport ever agree to jeopardize their own position in the league via a promotion/relegation system?

The top soccer teams in Europe would ditch pro/rel in a second if they could, and they periodically try to set up some sort of super league so they could.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:35 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


This seems like a weird distraction, or problem solving for an issue that doesn’t exist. If they really want to improve baseball they need to do oddly what the stodgy NFL has done and embrace technology. Overhaul the sign system into something that can’t be broken, and embrace sports betting. You constantly see players in the NFL using iPads or talk to coaches through headsets. It is no longer 1901. I’m sure we can restructure or come up with a way players can communicate without something a first year CS major can break.

But as someone iterated up thread. First thing we need to do is get rid of the Astros, Black Sox style. I’m sorry Houston, but you need to take one for the team, as oddly the drama of this will just make the Astros more profitable. This makes the “I hate the Yankees,” thing seem almost old fashion. Instead I can’t wait to watch every team in the league take the first chance they get to hit an Astros batter. That turns baseball into the WWE, and not in a good way.

Oh and the 17th game thing for the NFL has to do with how the ownership receives revenue if I remember correctly. The preseason is a joke but season ticket holders have to pay for it and that goes to the owners, where the rest was revenue sharing? I’m blurry on the details but it made sense given the payout structure of the schedule.
posted by geoff. at 1:07 PM on February 13


I’m for going back to 8 teams in each league and a post-season consisting of a 7 game World Series, period.
posted by hwestiii at 2:08 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I get around the blackout rules by living in Europe. I can watch every single MLB game if I want to. (Well I could if I had a bunch of iPads set up to watch 12 games simultaneously).

Even still, regional blackouts are stupid.

[Go Giants!]
posted by chavenet at 2:11 PM on February 13


Thorzdad: "Is any sport actually relevant?"

Calvinball.

[Which is what baseball seems to be trending toward...]
posted by chavenet at 2:13 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


As someone who used to watch every game, I think one cause of people not watching every game anymore isn't even really on the League's radar, viz. how obnoxious commercials have become in the last 10 years. Honestly last year I thought I would try and put baseball back into my life and I didn't even make it through the whole game on opening day. The game is fine. Commercial broadcast television is what's bad.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:55 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Co-signed. Anyone laboring under the idea that baseball on TV is great for families has never had to explain boner pills to a kindergartner.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


First thing we need to do is get rid of the Astros, Black Sox style.

As an Astros fan, I'm game, as long as teams are stripped of all pennants and rings they won while even a single juiced player was on their team. You don't just get to decide cheating matters now and hand out the death penalty to the Astros to make up for baseball's tarnished reputation from decades of unpunished cheating. If you yank the 2017 WS ring from the Astros, you pretty much have to void every World Series win from about 1993 onward. To do anything less is scapegoating the Astros, and pretty much proves this is mostly about a Third Coast expansion team beating a bunch of dynasty teams to the World Series ring in 2017 and those teams not being able to deal with that fact.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 4:45 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


As a Royals fan I definitely do not have bias. In fact I think the culture of cheating originated from several teams around the league. The difference is that it came from Luhnow, and was systemic. Again, as a fan I feel for you and maybe a Black Sox type purge is too much but this went really far in creating an organization that at all levels encouraged cheating to an extent that there was really no question of how to win games.

Unfortunately with PEDs, they go back well before 1993 with amphetamine use in the 1970s at least.

It is a difficult topic and don’t mean to shame you, in fact I think as a fan you were perhaps cheated the most, but I’d encourage you to look at the data being compiled in r/Astros as to the extent and the efficacy of the cheating. Keeping a World Series, and most of the organization intact does not seem proportional.

Again, if it was an overzealous coach or just a single act it would somehow be different.
posted by geoff. at 5:51 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


If I thought the Astros were the only team doing it, I might be concerned. They aren't; I'm not.

You void any one WS ring for cheating, you have to void all of them where any cheating of any kind took place. There's simply no wiggle room there, at all.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 5:56 PM on February 13


So, we know the Red Sox were cheating at the same time [this is before Alex Cora got there]. They got caught sooner (and also accused the Yankees of using network cameras to steal signs, but an investigation didn’t find evidence), and the commissioner let them off with a fine and told all the teams to cut it out. Specifically the office said that organizations (and managers and GM’s) would be punished; they didn’t say anything about punishing any players.

The Astros’ error was in continuing after the warning, and they lost their best-ever manager and best-ever GM.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:10 PM on February 13


Good point, perhaps I got wrapped up in the latest media coverage on this.
posted by geoff. at 6:19 PM on February 13


MLB's been pro wresting for about twenty years now, probably longer. It's all kayfabe. You think I'm going to accept my guys being the heels, think again. Never gonna happen.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 6:35 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


[One deleted. sideshow, rethink your approach here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:43 PM on February 13


This seems like a step in exactly the wrong direction. I have long believed the playoffs should be eliminated entirely. Go back to the winning teams getting the pennant, and replace our current playoffs with a 21 game world series.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:37 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Travis Sawchik, FiveThirtyEight: 5 Questions For MLB (focused on changes and expectations for the coming season)
posted by mbrubeck at 8:23 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


... any alteration of the postseason is enough to draw the ire of traditionalists.

Partially disagree with this. A return to the regular season determining which team win the pennants, thereby greatly reducing the playoffs, would probably be of great satisfaction to traditionalists.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 5:57 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I decided to follow European football on a February weekend several years ago. I asked friends who had been following the game how the playoffs work. I was informed there are no playoffs. The regular season determines the league winner. I found that refreshing and made these elaborate playoffs schemes leagues in North America have kind of silly. There's brilliance in simplicity.

Of course, I have since learned that there are "playoffs" in football. Only it's every country's league sends their best teams to one of two separate "playoffs," and they don't actually take place until the following season.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 6:05 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


One interesting thing about baseball is how it serves as an outlet for reactionary feelings for otherwise progressive, even radical people. Overthrow the plutarchy, blow up the system and start over, give up your idealized vision of a glorious past that never was, but please don't add playoff games or give the NL the designated hitter because tradition and btw, the sport was really better when I was a child.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:41 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


(I'm like 60% kidding.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:46 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I'm interested to see if the new 26 player active rosters (increased from 25, but with a hard limit of 13 pitchers) change anything. I'm hoping to see more pinch runners, weird utility guys, and combination pitcher/position players.

Personally, I think the rosters should be increased to 28, but with only 25 allowed (with the 25 chosen for the day announced in advance) per game. I think it would allow better injury management and it acknowledges the reality that starting pitchers usually won't play every day.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:55 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


One interesting thing about baseball is how it serves as an outlet for reactionary feelings for otherwise progressive, even radical people

I realize you're only 60-percent kidding, but I can't imagine anything more ponderous than being in the presence of somebody who was progressive, even radical about EVERYTHING.
posted by philip-random at 9:47 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


One interesting thing about baseball is how it serves as an outlet for reactionary feelings for otherwise progressive, even radical people.

There's a lot of things I dislike rather intensely about MLB, mostly in regards to the strong conservativism that does pervade much of the game, both with the players and fans, and some of the incidental elements surrounding sports culture and toxic masculinity in the US that can't help but effect MLB as well, with Curt Schilling being perhaps the prime exemplar of the worst of that side of the sport. The many scandals surrounding cheating, PEDs, and other incidents too are annoying, though I believe only more well known in MLB than other sports rather than baseball specific.

At the same time though, the allure of baseball is indeed tied to a history of the game that does, more than in any other sport, keep its past present in a way that is meaningful to how the game is enjoyed and understood at its highest level. The statistical history of the game, the way one can compare past to present, watch today's players work themselves into the long history of the game and chase the numbers players put up from decades or even a century past and, in a way, carry on a conversation with that history is what keeps me interested in the game, even though I rarely watch it. Changing the playoff structure isn't a major problem for me since it only minimally alters the season long accomplishments of the players and teams, as the playoffs are something of a separate season.

The game has undergone numerous major changes over the decades, but the core has stayed roughly the same. As long as that continues and maintains its relevance to MLBs long history I'm fine with the changes, but if the tinkering breaks too much from the past and changes the game too much to maintains its communion with its past, then the game would have no further purpose for me. Upholding tradition and history can be beneficial if they aren't used to justify harm, where that line might be for MLB is perhaps an open question, but also central to a core part of its appeal and identity.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:12 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Rob Manfred. I hate it.

I mean, I love baseball, but the owners and the league officials make it so hard. The obvious problem with pace of play to anyone who watches a baseball game is batters stepping out of the box, which umps can already police by calling automatic strikes on the batter. Wearable technology could solve the sign stealing problem immediately and make the game even faster. But what does the league do instead? They institute a 3 batter minimum for pitchers to avoid a tiny number of 2-minute pitching changes. My prediction is the games are just as long this season as in previous seasons.

And this expanded playoffs idea is terrible for reasons folks have mentioned. It's not reactionary to not want a team with a barely winning record to get a chance to have a hot 3 game stretch to knock off a team that was much better over 162 games but might have lost a key player to injury or had a bad run of batted ball luck.

If they want to shake things up in a way that doesn't devalue the regular season, they could divide the season up into two 81-game periods and crown a champion in each league for both. Those teams would get byes and favorable opponent matchups, and teams that have would normally have nothing to play for by August would suddenly get a clean slate in July.

But this... just letting more teams in and making the regular season games even more meaningless? Hard pass.

Re: the cheating scandal, Katie Nolan puts it best: Alternative Astros Apology Idea
posted by tonycpsu at 11:54 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to consider almost every proposal except teams choosing opponents, which is absolutely bonkers and, I think, unprecedented in sports.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:16 PM on February 14


Well, the WWE lets the Royal Rumble winners pick who they challenge at Wrestlemania, and you can’t spell “sports entertainment” without “sports”.

Though if we did that we’d have to have big “Road to the World Series” signs for players to constantly point ominously at, and that might get old.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:33 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


As a Pirates fan, this gives me hope for a World Series win.

But yeah no, this is a horrible idea.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 10:09 PM on February 14


« Older Great Impractical Ideas in Computer Science   |   What is this that stands before me? Heavy Metal... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.