How the Play-in Will Play Out
I couldn’t be more excited that the NCAA seems to be extricating its head from its nether regions to finally consider instituting a college football playoff. The only thing better than the thought of the classic matches to come is salivating over the classic matches that could have been. Sure, I know that Michigan wouldn’t have had a chance against Florida in that 2006 matchup but most people thought Ohio State was going to plow the Gators under so you never know. That’s the thing about football and a one-game playoff system. It sucks when you’re on the losing end but it’s great when you win.
But baseball is different. Sure, there’s a thrill to ending the season on a one-game intra-division playoff and some of those games have become instant classics. However, despite being the baseball progressive half of the RSBS duo, I find myself wondering about the MLB expanded playoffs. A play-in wildcard game? Sure, it’s great for ratings. And obviously it means a lot more than something like the NCAA basketball play-in game. But I’m just not sold on it.
On the money side I get it. A one-off play-in is bound to be a huge financial bonus. Last year it would have meant keeping the Red Sox and their fans around for one extra game and MLB loves those ratings bonanzas. But the beautiful thing about baseball is that its also about playing consistently. You have to play well over a 162-game grind, which only gives you the chance to do it all again in grueling 5 and 7 game series. The extended series in baseball are like life while football’s one-and-done playoff model feels more like the movies.
I’m sure I’ll come around. MLB has finally taken care of the uneven league issue and and with even divisions, teams now have more incentive than ever before to win their division. The play-in is great for strong divisions where a couple good teams trapped behind a spectacular team will finally get a chance to make the playoffs. But, do we really need to have 3 NL East and 3 AL East teams in the playoffs every year, even if one of them falls out during the play-in?