Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tough road to expanded baseball playoffs

I guess Bud Selig spoke too soon and too optimistically about expanding the baseball playoffs. Judging by comments from baseball players such as Tim Lincecum, Selig is in for a much tougher fight than he thought.

Selig wants to expand the playoffs to include two more wild card teams, bringing the total number of participants to 10 teams. You would think this idea is something baseball players would embrace, given the additional chance to make the postseason and the extra compensation that comes with it. But there have been very vocal objections raised by several players and even vitriol thrown in Selig’s direction.

Take Lincecum’s comments for example. I have absolutely no problem with the quirky pitcher enjoying the current baseball format, which his San Francisco Giants conquered all the way to a World Series title last year. But his suggestion that Selig doesn’t care about his players because he had the gall to suggest adding more games to the playoff schedule makes absolutely no sense and is completely unfair. Sure, Selig’s motivations are probably mostly financial, but it’s not like the players won’t be compensated for playing extra games since a playoff expansion is subject to the collective bargaining agreement.

I really don’t like seeing that kind of personal attack against the commissioner of baseball coming from a player, especially a star like Lincecum whose comments always get extra attention. There’s going to be plenty to fight about during the negotiations this offseason, but there’s no reason to get nasty this early. I admire Lincecum for what he has done on the field (winning two Cy Young awards by the age of 25), but this is one of those moments when a somewhat immature young man just said way too much and a lot of it was completely inappropriate.

I like Mark Teixeira’s more measured response. Teixeira and Joe Girardi both voiced concern about extended time off for division winners while the wild cards duke it out. That’s a legitimate concern that baseball would have to address before implementing a system, perhaps by forcing the wild card teams to play three games in a row (sure that’s harsh, but that’s why they should win the division), and still allowing division leaders to start playing on Thursday.

The union is already sending signals that it may fight such a change, especially if most of its members fall in the Lincecum/Teixeira camp of objectors. So the path to expanded baseball playoffs won’t be as smooth as Selig hoped. Good luck, Commissioner!

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