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.