MLB makes the expanded playoffs official for 2012

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Just got the press release. It’s official: expanded playoffs for 2012.

The 2012 Postseason will feature a 10-team format that includes two additional Wild Card Clubs and an elimination game in each League prior to the Division Series, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today … a single Postseason game would be played between each League’s two Wild Card Clubs, with each winner advancing to compete among the three division champions from each League in the Division Series.

And what we learned this morning — that a division winner will open on the road against the winner of the wild card playoff — is official:

For the 2012 Postseason only, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds.  This one-year change will eliminate a travel day prior to a decisive Game Five of the Division Series and was necessary because the 2012 regular season schedule was announced before the agreement on the new Postseason was reached.  Next year, the Division Series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years.

All that has been said about this has basically been said: winning the division instead of the wild card is incentivized. More money is made by all.  It’s pretty much what everyone inside the game wants.

Outside the game? A lot of us hate this kind of change.  But being realistic, a lot of us hated the original implementation of the wild card too, and we got over it.  There is no going backwards in baseball.  This sort of thing is inevitable.

White Sox to extend protective netting to the foul poles

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Recently two more fans suffered serious injuries as the result of hard-hit foul balls at major league games. One of those fans was hurt at a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. In response, the White Sox have taken it upon themselves to do that which Major League Baseball will not require and extend protective netting. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority are planning to extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles, according to a source.

Exact details will be announced later, but the changes will be made as soon as possible this season.

If recent history holds, they will not be the last team to do it.

Major League Baseball has taken a laissez-faire approach to protective netting over the past several years, requiring nothing even if it has made recommendations to teams to do something. The last time it made a suggestion was in December 2015 when teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. In the wake of that recommendation only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do anything.

It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl was severely injured at Yankee Stadium, that the rest of baseball was inspired to extend protective netting in keeping with MLB’s recommendations. Indeed, it was a land rush, with all 30 teams extending their netting by Opening Day 2018. While a generous interpretation would have everyone seeing the light simultaneously, my slightly more experienced eye saw it as a “don’t be the only team not to have extended netting by the time the next lawsuit hits” approach.

In the wake of the two recent injuries Major League Baseball issued a statement about how it “will keep examining” the matter of additional protective netting while, again, mandating nothing. Now that the White Sox are extending netting to the foul poles, however,  it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which other teams follow suit. Sooner or later, enough will likely have done so to create critical mass and make any team which has not done so to make the effort out of self-preservation.

Or, more generously, good sense.