Friday, September 30, 2011

Play ball! We're on the road to the World Series.


Yes, I am a hockey-loving Canadian but I am also an ardent baseball fan.  September has come to an end and autumn is in the air.  This is a great time of year for both hockey and baseball with the new NHL season about to begin and, of course, the baseball postseason set to start.  It is certainly disappointing that my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won't be taking part in the playoffs again this year.  Unfortunately, Toronto's hometown heroes finished the season with 81 wins and 81 losses, a perfect .500 team.  To the dismay and frustration of their fans, the Jays have not participated in postseason play since they won the World Series in 1993.  That's 18 years and counting.

In the sports media, there has been a great deal of debate about expanding baseball's postseason.  Many relish thee thought of more teams having the opportunity to participate in the playoffs.  They argue that it would create more interest in more cities.  I'm ambivalent.  Here's why.  I think baseball would be better off with a salary cap rather than increasing the number of teams in the postseason.  Sure, some small market, small payroll teams such as Tampa Bay make the playoffs, but they are few and far between.  They are the exception. The majority of teams in the postseason have huge payrolls.

I do not believe, however, that Major League Baseball will adopt a salary cap any time soon.  Teams such as the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies are not about to give up their advantage.  Sadly and realistically, I can't see that happening.  So, is expanding the playoffs the only alternative?  Unfortunately, it appears that way.  Otherwise, with 30 teams in the majors, some cities will continue to wait 15 to 25 years just to make the playoffs, never mind win the World Series.  The status quo is simply untenable.  The situation has to change. 

Here is my problem with expanding the playoffs.  One of the things I enjoy about baseball is that the postseason doesn't last too long.  I am loathe to see MLB go the route of the National Hockey League where the playoff season has become a two-month marathon.  The World Series is known as the October Classic, not the October-November Classic. 

I realize that adding a few postseason games will not make the postseason last until Christmas.  My concern is that it will allow baseball to continue down a slippery slope.  It will be easier to just keep extending the postseason, particularly if more teams join the league in the future.  However, an extended postseason seems to be the only viable solution as long as baseball refuses to impose a salary cap.  I would support it, albeit reluctantly. 

An expanded playoff format would be more palatable for me if the number of regular season games were reduced.  How about 160 games instead of 162?  That would be acceptable to me, but probably not to Major League Baseball.  That works out to a lot of games throughout the league and a lot of lost revenue.  It won't happen.

Here's another postseason problem baseball should address.  The sport needs to win the hearts and minds of children and youth.  They are the fans of the future.  Yet, due to the lure of television advertising dollars, these young baseball fans are being shut out.  There was a time when children rushed home from school to watch the pennant races and the World Series, but that has become part of a bygone era.  How many school children can stay up into the wee hours of the night to watch a playoff game or World Series game go into extra innings?

Okay, I've finished venting.  Post season play remains exciting and irresistible.  I watched the ignominious collapse of the Boston Red Sox and it felt almost surreal.  I could not believe how all the stars aligned for the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.  I would be quite pleased if the Rays went all the way to the World Series. 

The New York Yankees have a fantastic team as usual, with players such as Curtis Granderson,, but I'm tired of seeing them win.  The other teams I like are the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  What a season Justin Verlander has had for the Tigers!  The D-backs recently acquired Aaron Hill and John McDonald from the Blue Jays.  Johnny Mack is a class guy.  I'm so happy for him that he has the opportunity to play in the postseason, but I'm hoping that he'll be back in a Blue Jays uniform next season.

- Joanne

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