With the All-Star break ongoing, here’s something to ponder to help pass the time:
Should Major League Baseball consider first and second half division champions?
The thought crossed my mind as I wondered what might have been for the 2018 Cincinnati Reds, who lost an astounding 18 of their first 21 games but have recently been one of the best teams in either league.
It’s too bad April was so bad nothing that followed could possibly include the Reds really getting back into contention, right?
Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.
Since there are minor leagues (including the Midwest League) that have split-season champions, I can’t say this is exactly a novel idea, but that’s a testing ground for lots of changes at the top level.
It makes more sense for the MWL since rosters tend to change drastically through the course of the season, but there is probably some merit to the idea for MLB as its powers that be look for ways to increase fan interest late in the season.
Although I am posing the question, I have to admit my answer would be no.
I’d rather keep things the way they are.
I am still a traditionalist, after all.
As interesting as it might be for a team like the Reds, whose terrible start can partly be attributed to injuries to Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez, to get a mulligan, the long season is part of MLB’s identity.
Triumphing over 162 games is important, and I don’t want that to go away — even though the expansion of the postseason has already drastically changed things not just from the days when the team with the best record in each league played in the World Series but also even 25 years ago when there were no wild cards.
(Ironically, the 1981 Reds had the best record in the National League but missed the postseason because they did not have the best record in either half of a season that was split because of a work stoppage.)
Nonetheless, don’t be too shocked if it does happen some day. Or at least if it gets some serious discussion.
MLB, like every other major sports league in the country, has already shown a willingness to consider and even adopt terrible ideas to drum up business (Like the Big 12 creating a football championship game despite already playing a round-robin schedule. And have you seen how the NHL chooses playoff teams now? Remember when the winner of the All-Star Game got home-field advantage in the World Series?) so just about anything is possible.
How would it work?
The regular season would be watered down, but that was already done with the wild cards.
Perhaps we trade in the wild cards for dual division champions?
Yes, the team that goes wire-to-wire would get a raw deal, but that already happens.
(Maybe if a team wins both halves we could try a series in which it only has to win three games while the opponent has to win four or something like that.)
For baseball, a sport that depends more on strength at the local level than football, it might be a worthwhile trade to keep more localities interested for a longer period of time.