Major League Baseball Expands Playoffs With Two More Teams
Major League Baseball is expanding its playoffs starting in October with the addition of a second wild-card team and a sure-to-be-dramatic “play-in” game in each league. That will put 10 of MLB’s 30 clubs in the postseason each year.
The three division winners in the American and National leagues will await the winners of the one-and-done playoff games, contests that will be wedged in between the end of the regular season and the best-of-five Division Series.
Which network or networks will broadcast the two new playoff games has not been determined. TBS has the rights to the Division Series round and splits the League Championship Series with Fox, which airs the World Series. ESPN, Fox, TBS and the MLB Network broadcast regular-season games.
Said Lou D'Ermilio, senior vp media relations for Fox Sports: “We’ve got a great, longstanding relationship with MLB, and if these playoffs games become available, we’d be very interested in exploring the possibility of presenting them on a Fox outlet.”
The MLB Players Association had to OK the playoff expansion for 2012, which comes one year before it was mandated as part of the league's collective bargaining agreement.
“I greatly appreciate the MLBPA’s cooperation in putting the new postseason format in place this year,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said Friday. “The enthusiasm for the 10-team structure among our clubs, fans and partners has been overwhelming.
“This change increases the rewards of a division championship [giving the winners extra rest] and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive postseason in professional sports,” he added.
The format for the Division Series, as well as for the two League Championship series and the World Series (each a best-of-seven matchup), remains the same.
Last year, the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the Division Series by winning the NL’s lone wild-card berth on the final day of the regular season. Had there been the second wild card, the Cardinals would have had to play the Atlanta Braves in a one-game playoff to move on.
The extra playoff game was made possible with the move of the Houston Astros from the National League’s Central Division to the American League West for the 2013 season. That will give each league 15 teams — plus, all six divisions in baseball will then have five teams apiece — allowing for the proper competitive balance.
Baseball last expanded its playoff format in 1994 with the addition of a wild-card team in each league. From 1969-93, only two teams from each league advanced to the postseason; before 1969, just the two pennant winners made it to the World Series. Now, 33 percent of teams will advance it to baseball's playoffs, still the lowest ratio in pro sports (it's 37.5 percent of teams in the NFL and 53.3 percent for both the NHL and NBA).
Baseball’s 162-game regular season is scheduled to end this year on Wednesday, Oct. 3, with the World Series set to start on Wednesday, Oct. 24.