Extra Two Games in League Playoffs Help Create Dull Baseball

Washington Post

Seven-game playoffs for baseball are a mistake. The sport should go back to the old best-of-five format immediately.

There's only one thing wrong with the new setup. But it's the worst possible thing that could be wrong. It's dull.

From 1969 to 1984, the baseball playoffs were the most tense, most exciting, least fair crap-shoot in sports.

Fans loved 'em. Every game was a crisis.

The home team desperately needed to win the first two games, otherwise it would have to win the pennant in a three-game series in its opponent's park. That's hard.

The only time an LCS ever lost its energy was if the visiting team opened with two wins. Even then, the third game had excitement; the pennant could be won that day.

Now, with the addition of just two games, plus an extra offday, all that has changed.

There is no reason for the general fan to be excited and absorbed by the early games of the playoffs. Proof of that came on the weekend in Kansas City and St. Louis.

In years past, if the Royals and Cardinals had come home down 2-0, there would have been a last-stand atmosphere. The Blue Jays and Dodgers would have been one win from a pennant, but the home teams would have needed a three-game sweep in their own parks. Everybody knows that's possible.

You think a capacity home crowd can't help you win three little games? Remember San Diego in '84 and Milwaukee in '82. St. Louis Monday?

Instead, what we had was a weekend snore, compared to the marvelous tension that spoiled us for 15 years.

The Royals and Cardinals both won their Game 3 battles. That's when the realization finally sank in of just how inferior the new seven-game playoff is. Our gut-level reaction was, "So what?" Even if the Royals or Cardinals swept in their home parks, they still had to go back on the road to clinch.

In the past, each of these weekend games would have been a potential sudden-death situation. By Game 5, double sudden death.

Instead, the feeling has been that nothing of real consequence was likely to happen in Missouri.

Talk about defusing a great event.

The Blue Jays and Dodgers came to Missouri with big leads. If they did clinch here, what would have been so exciting about that? More important, they couldn't lose.

Obviously there's only one reason baseball expanded its playoffs: money. That's not nearly a good enough reason.

The phony argument in favor of the new structure is that it's "fairer." Sure. About 2%. If you want fair, play 162.

Another possible abomination lurks within the seven-game playoffs. With a bit of bad luck, both 1985 playoffs could have ended by Sunday (even if the ALCS had gone five games). Even if both LCS had gone five, everything would have ended Monday. And the World Series can't start until Saturday.

If 75% of baseball is pitching, then what in the name of Connie Mack and Casey Stengel is the game doing running the risk of a four- or five-day layoff before the Series?

A layoff that long is more than enough to destroy the timing of most hitters and throw off the control of most pitchers. Thanks to needless made-for-TV offdays, the postseason already is too attenuated and a poorer test of a total pitching staff than it should be. Now we're approaching the point of the ridiculous.

A seven-game playoff has only one real potential gain. Now the World Series could start with Games 1 and 2 in the glorious sunshine on a Saturday and Sunday. And Games 6 and 7 could likewise conclude a good series in the daylight on Saturday and Sunday.

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