ORLANDO, Fla. — Little opposition has emerged to Major League Baseball expanding its playoffs for 2012 as the sport’s top officials discussed the concept during two days of meetings.
While commissioner Bud Selig has yet to formally propose adding two more wild-card teams, he said during the World Series that he was giving the plan serious consideration.
General managers and owners were waiting to hear whether Selig would directly address them on the matter Thursday, when three days of meetings conclude.
“I don’t see any minuses,” Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said Wednesday. “More excitement at the end of the season. It prolongs the season a little bit, but that’s not a negative for me.”
While Selig hasn’t ruled out proposing the change for 2011, nearly all baseball officials say the extra round of playoffs would likely start in 2012. If Selig decides to go ahead, owners would have to endorse the plan, baseball’s television partners would have to receive it positively and the players’ association would have to agree. Union head Michael Weiner says players are open to the idea.
“I think the more teams you have in it, the month of September will obviously be more meaningful,” said Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, Selig’s onetime No. 2. “The minuses — two of them obviously are the integrity of the schedule and the history of the game, where you know the best teams always moved forward. But we really crossed that bridge, didn’t we, when we went from two teams to four teams, and then four teams to eight teams? So that bridge has been crossed. I’ve changed. I could add more teams.”
In the unusual format of this week’s meetings, general managers and owners gathered at the same hotel, while team business officials met 3¼ miles away at the hotel in Lake Buena Vista where the winter meetings will be held from Dec. 6-9. Selig addressed GMs Wednesday as that group finished, and owners will meet Thursday. The formal sessions were dominated by preparation for collective bargaining next year.
Agents for free-agent players also were on hand striking deals. The Florida Marlins finalized an $18 million, three-year contract with catcher John Buck, and the Detroit Tigers reached a preliminary agreement on a $16.5 million, three-year contract with Joaquin Benoit, a deal that could raise prices for setup relievers.
In the second trade of the meetings, speedy outfielder Rajai Davis was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Oakland Athletics for minor league right-handers Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar. Oakland last week acquired outfielder David DeJesus from Kansas, making Davis superfluous.
Also, the New York Mets began interviewing their four finalists for manager. Bob Melvin and Chip Hale were due in Wednesday, followed by Wally Backman and Terry Collins on Thursday.
As for the expanded playoffs, there appears to be more discussion of how to do it rather than whether to do it.
Many thought a winner-take-all one-game meeting of wild cards in each league wouldn’t be fair.
“It doesn’t seem right,” Atlanta Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay said. “But people will have to take a look at it.”
Best-of-three could be a middle ground for the wild-card round. Selig and team officials worry about the World Series ending even later than it current does — it went into November for the second straight year, even though the San Francisco Giants beat Texas in five games.
“You’ve got concerns about weather and you’ve got concerns about the length of the schedule,” Beeston said. “There’s nothing like a best-of-one, as a fan, but I’m not so sure I’d want to be playing all year and do it.”
From a club standpoint, Loria saw a possible negative issue with a best-of-one.
“You only get to play in one town,” he said.
And if there’s a best-of-three, what would the format be? Would the team with the better record be home for the first two games? For the final two? Could it be 1-1-1, which might involves days off or lengthy travel?
A one-game wild-card round would solve the travel, but would give an advantage to a team with a rested ace pitcher. Beeston saw a way around that.
“Win your division,” he said.