Bud Selig recently announced that a new playoff system could be in place in 2012 which would allow five playoff teams from each league. Each league would have three division winners who automatically advance to what we now call the Division Series, while the two wild card winners would face off in (presumably) a one-game playoff for the right to face the team that finished with the best record.
If this system had been put into place instead of the current system in 1994, it would have resulted in two additional trips to the playoffs for the Tribe.
In 2000 the Indians would have qualified as the second wild card team, facing the Mariners in the play-in game. The Indians could have started Jason Bere or brought back Bartolo Colon on short rest to face either Freddy Garcia or Aaron Sele.
Instead, the Mariners disposed of the White Sox in the ALDS before losing to the Yankees in six games in the LCS.
In 2005 the Indians also would have been the second wild card team, facing the Red Sox. The pitching matchup likely would have been Cliff Lee against Bronso Arroyo, unless the Tribe used CC Sabathia on short rest.
Instead, the Red Sox were swept by the White Sox in the LDS on their way to winning the World Series.
It will be interesting to see how this new system is perceived by the fans. Personally, I’m not crazy about it.
Take 2004 for example – the Red Sox won 98 games and finished with the second best record in the AL… but they trailed the Yankees. Is it really fair to force their season to come down to one game against the A’s, who won seven fewer games during the regular season?
One-game playoffs simply don’t work in baseball (unless absolutely necessary, such as in the event of a tie). In football or basketball you can make the case that the better team will win most of the time – that’s not the case in baseball.
In baseball, the team with the better pitcher wins most of the time, not necessary the more complete team.
Using 2004 as the example again, the Red Sox were clearly the better team, but in a one-game playoff Rich Harden (the likely scheduled starter for the A’s) certainly could have out-dueled Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling.
In a one-game playoff between great pitchers, anything can happen. It might make for one night of great TV, but would it really be better for the game in the long run?