This week, MLB continued to establish itself as the most efficient American professional sports league, by signing in a new CBA. There are many changes to the sport in this new agreement, but one interesting change is adding two playoff teams, one in each league. The extra wild card team will face off with the original wild card in a one game playoff to enter the divisional series. This move by major league baseball makes for some interesting thoughts; such as, what if this playoff format was in place during this last postseason in 2011?
Under the new playoff format, there would have been no Red Sox epic collapse (Josh Beckett’s beer belly would have still been in the playoffs), because Boston would have faced off in a one game playoff with the Tampa Bay Rays, with the winner facing Texas. Interestingly, this also would have taken all the excitement out of 162nd day of the season, which had incredible excitement (Dan Johnson anyone?). Other then those effects, the American League playoff picture would not have been effected too much, because Texas beat Tampa Bay handily, which would have happened either way no matter if they had to beat the Red Sox to get there or not. However, the National League playoffs would have looked very different.
The wild card playoff matchup would have seen the Atlanta Braves facing off with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, as many recall, were on fire at the time, while the Braves were reeling. St. Louis sends Kyle Lohse out in hopes they can find a way to get into the NLDS and win a date with the Philadelphia Phillies. Let’s say that Lohse gets the win and the Cardinals did make the NLDS. In my mind that one extra game would be more than enough to allow the Phillies to win the NLDS in a sweep, with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee beating Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia in Games 1 and 2; and Cole Hamels easily dealing against Edwin Jackson in Game 3. As is now history, the Cardinals some how beat the much better Phillies in 5 games, and went on to win their second improbable World Series in the last decade. But, if the new playoff rules were in place their World Series championship would (most likely) have never happened.
If this had been the case, the 2011 World Series would have had much higher TV ratings, matching up the Phillies and the Rangers. It’s a toss-up on who would have won, but I feel as though it would not have been as exciting of a series. We would not have had Game 6, arguably the best baseball game of all time. Nelson Cruz would not be a goat, and no one would even know who David Freese was, outside the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. It’s a depressing thought to consider; that under the new rules the incredible World Series we experienced in 2011, would have never happened. Just food for thought, of course.