NEW YORK — A little more than two months before opening day, Major League Baseball still doesn’t know whether there will be eight playoff teams this year or 10.
Add a bat or an arm to compete for that extra wild card? No telling whether that makes any sense.
“That’s the last thing on my mind,” Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta said. “I’m trying to win my division and I can’t be concerned about that stuff. But the more the merrier.
“It gives us and everybody else a better chance to make the playoffs. But it’s not on my mind because you don’t build a system or build a team counting on the commissioner is going to change the playoff format,” he said.
While MLB and the players’ association still are discussing whether the expanded playoffs will start in 2012 or 2013, they’ve reached a consensus that ties for division titles will be broken on the field under the new playoff format, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a deal hadn’t been finalized.
Since 1995, head-to-head record has been used to determine first place if both teams are going to the postseason. But with the start of a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round, the sides agreed that the difference between first place and a wild-card berth is too important to decide with a formula and a tiebreaker game would be played.
Negotiators plan to talk again next week and decide by March 1 on whether the extra round will begin this year.
“I think most clubs at this point no matter who you are are focused on trying to win a division,” Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “If that doesn’t work, then you make your adjustments.”
Under the new format, whenever it begins, the non-division winners in each league with the two-best records will be the wild-cards, meaning a third-place team could for the first time win the World Series.
Being able to finish third and still go to the postseason could create more of an opportunity in the AL East for teams other than the rich New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, or in the AL West, where the two-time champion Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have spent big bucks to improve.
In the AL Central, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore watched Dombrowski add Prince Fielder to his already formidable batting order this week.
“We’re focused on putting the best team on the field we can to compete to win the Central. That’s the first goal,” Moore said. “If that appears to be unattainable, we’ll evaluate what we need to do to improve the team to continue to strive for that goal. If it becomes apparent that’s not going to happen, you begin to focus on the wild card. You want to get in the playoffs any way you can and take your chances there.”