Baseball’s Big Changes


Do you like the big changes to baseball’s division and playoff structure?

In case you haven’t heard, MLB announced this week that starting in 2013 the Houston Astros would move to the American League in order to balance out the divisions. Each league will now have three, five team divisions. Because there’s an odd number in each league, there will be interleague games all year long. And starting next year, there will be an extra Wild Card team in each league. The two Wild Cards will face each other in a one game playoff, with the winners going on to the ALDS and NLDS.

If you want to read my observations and how I think this will effect the Twins, you can do so after the jump…

I haven’t seen the results of that poll yet, but I’ll go ahead and guess that you probably don’t like it. Most baseball fans tend to dislike major changes. We’re fans of a game that has been played in pretty much the same way ever since the 1880s, and that’s a fact that we usually take pride in. So every time there is a rule change, people shout and complain and wish loudly that Bud Selig would jump off a tall building. That’s the way people reacted to the first Wild Card idea, interleague play, and the unbalanced schedule. I wasn’t around in 1969 when the AL and NL split into Eastern and Western Divisions, but I’m guessing there was just as much outrage at that idea as there is today.

For the record, I’m kind of annoyed at the new format. It just seems weird to have an odd number of playoff teams. One of the things I’ve always liked about baseball is that there aren’t a whole ton of teams in the postseason. I think the NBA playoffs are incredibly boring because they last forever, and the first round is always just a bunch of mediocre teams getting slaughtered by the Lakers and Celtics. I also don’t like the year-round interleague play. I would have preferred seeing interleague play reduced, not expanded.

The strangest thing about this is that everything seemed to be just fine. There really wasn’t any need for a change as far as I could tell. MLB is making plenty of profit – it had an operating income of $494 million in 2010, and the vast majority of its teams are also profitable. Anyway, I doubt that adding a single game in each league would do much to affect the bottom line. As far as fan interest, the playoffs have generated just as much excitement in recent years as they ever have, with 2011 not lacking at all for drama. Nor was there any great outcry amongst fans to add more interleague games. If you believe in the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I’m sure you’re just as baffled as I am.

But I also know that I’m not going to stop watching or buying tickets, and I’ll probably learn to live with the changes eventually. I suspect a lot of you will have the same experience.

How do these change affect the Twins? Other than gaining a brand new AL “rival,” it doesn’t seem like it will have a huge effect on our Local Nine. I guess it’s nice to know that the only team in baseball with a worse record than the Twins will be joining the league. As long as Houston doesn’t suddenly get good, there will be one more patsy opponent to help the Twins pad their record. But depending on just how many interleague games are added to the schedule, they might end up with fewer games against the AL Central foes. Since much of the team’s recent success came against those Central opponents, that could be a slight problem.

Ten years ago, the new format would have been a benefit to the Twins. In 2001, Minnesota finished 85-77, six games behind Cleveland for the division title. But they were the fifth best team in the AL, and they would have merited a one game playoff against Wild Card winner Oakland, who finished 102-60. The Twins actually won the season series against the A’s that year (5-4), so they would have had a decent shot to knock them out and advance to the playoffs. In 2010, the Yankees would have had to play a one game playoff against the Red Sox. If Boston had won and gone on to face the Twins in the ALDS, things might have turned out very differently.

Go ahead and answer the poll question above, and feel free to use the space below for any comments on the new playoff system, the Astros, the division alignment, or any of the new changes. It’s a good topic for discussion, and I’m sure everyone has an opinion.