MLB officially approves Wild Card expansion
Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is less than a month away, but the league decided to make big, sudden changes to its playoff format. The league officially announced Friday that it will expand the playoffs to 10 teams, thanks to an additional Wild Card team in each league.
According to MLB.com, the deal between the MLB and the Players Association was finalized on Friday, just before it was officially announced. Fox Sports had initially reported that a deal was reached earlier in the week, but the full details were not ironed out until Friday. In fact, there are still a few matters that will have to be settled.
The new system will give the three division winners in each league will get a bye, while the two Wild Card winners will play a one-game playoff. Both the NL and AL games will be scheduled on the same day, Friday, Oct. 5. That will give all four Wild Card teams two days between the end of the season and the playoff. The Division Series will be begin on Saturday and Sunday.
“I greatly appreciate the MLBPA’s cooperation in putting the new postseason format in place this year…The enthusiasm for the 10-team structure among our clubs, fans and partners has been overwhelming,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
As Fox Sports notes, the original plan had been to wait until 2013 to expand the playoffs. That season, the Hosuton Astros will move to the AL, giving both leagues the same number of teams. However, Selig decided to put the expansion in place now, which comes with its consequences because the 2012 schedule had already been set.
For example, for 2012 only, the higher-seeded team in the Division Series will have to play the first two games on the road at the Wild Card team’s home field. This will turn the best-of-five series into a 2-3 series, instead of the 2-2-1 system that had been in place since 1998. That system will return in 2013 as the schedule will allow for a travel day for the fifth game of the series.
What also has to be worked out is who will televise the two extra games. Sports Illustrated notes that Turner Entertainment, which runs TBS, and the MLB Network are both interested.
This is just the third time in MLB history that the playoffs have expanded. The last time was in 1994, when the MLB and Players Association approved the additional Wild Card team.