Today Jeff Passan of Yahoo! takes the idea of an expanded playoffs apart piece-by-piece. His criticisms track my own in their concern with (a) this being nothing but a money grab; (b) devaluing the regular season; (c) creating perverse competitive incentives among contenders; and (d) doing nothing to make the game better like, say, instituting replay would.
But Passan’s take is easily the sharpest I’ve seen on the matter because in talking to executives and owners he really makes plain the fact that Bud Selig refuses to acknowledge: fairness and the health of baseball have nothing to do with it. Don’t believe it? Just listen to the two team executives Passan quotes:
“As a member of a club, you’re talking about extra chances to get into the playoffs and have your season look like a success,” one executive said. “I make the playoffs, I keep my job.”
“[O]ur ideas aren’t as much what’s right for the sport as what’s right for revenues. My team is worth a lot more than it was when I bought it. It’s sort of like blood money, though.”
It’s pretty obvious, really.
And the fact that so few are calling Major League Baseball out on it is telling as well. After all, networks and newspapers and websites all stand to gain too. They get increased viewership and readership if the playoffs linger on. I’ve seen the traffic reports for HardballTalk during the playoffs. They’re quite gaudy compared to the early part of the post season, I will tell you. Expanded playoffs are great for my bottom line. I’m sure the same goes for Yahoo! and everyone else. So I suppose it’s understandable that we’ve gotten pliant reporting about this plan, with Bud Selig’s ludicrous comments about “fairness” being reported mostly without criticism and the expanded playoffs being viewed as a benign inevitability.
Kudos to Passan and others — even some whose employers have an even more obvious incentive to milk money out of the playoffs than most — who have attacked this cynical idea, calling it out for exactly what it is. They are to be commended for doing what the Commissioner, the owners, the MLBPA and the players are supposed to do in looking after the best interests of the game as opposed to the best interests of those who profit from it.
Not that it will ultimately change a damn thing.
Every year the playoff schedule is announced, every year people complain. And it’s understandable why they do. After six months of games starting at around 7pm — bam! — the playoffs come and you’re either staying up late or tuning in early to watch your local nine.
Of course, the reason for this is that Major League Baseball has two fundamental problems to deal with when the playoffs come around (a) the country is big; and (b) baseball is local and two-thirds and more of the fans don’t have a local team to root for in the playoffs. As such, baseball has to make a schedule that somehow deals with teams — like the Mets and Dodgers — who have big time differences between their home fan bases while trying to rope in as many national viewers as possible.
This means compromises and weirdness like, say, the first couple of Mets-Dodgers games starting after 9pm Eastern time on Friday and Saturday. Or the Texas Rangers starting a game at what, back home in Texas, will be 11:45AM. Which, admittedly, aren’t great start times, but do we expect Dodgers fans in L.A. to fight Friday rush hour traffic and be home in time to watch a game featuring the local team any earlier than 6pm? Seems like a tall order.
Anyway, the early round schedule was just released and you can see it below. If you are so inclined you can find all manner of inconveniences here. Sure, if you don’t have a job — or if being online and watching baseball all day is your job — Friday’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back playoff games are pretty sweet. But otherwise, just plan accordingly and do the best you can.
And remember: no one gives a rip about these schedule issues about ten minutes after the games start:
Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.
Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.
Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at: