On one side, there's the same argument often used against instituting a Division I college football playoff—specifically, that making the postseason
more inclusive renders the regular season less important. In campus pigskin, we're told, every game is a playoff game, because one loss can all
but dash a team's chances of reaching the BCS title contest. (Unless you're TCU, in which case, good luck in what's left of the Big East!) Moreover, a
bigger playoff pool increases the odds of fluky results. Invite too many teams to the postseason party, and coronations become crapshoots, in which the
best teams seldom win (see the NCAA men's basketball tournament), the hot teams make a mockery of seeding (see the NFL) and literally anything can
happen, and often does, except for the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets drinking beer out of the Stanley Cup (see the NHL).
On the other side of the debate, there's, whee! More teams means more fun! In 1995, people grumbled when baseball introduced the wild card and
divisional playoff format in 1995; today, everyone loves it. In 1985, people grumbled when March Madness expanded from 32 to 64 teams; in the here and
now, is there a single more exciting event on the annual sports calendar? Build a bigger VIP lounge, and more people have a chance to feel special; add
playoff teams, and more fans have a reason to care, gamble and tune in.
Of course, that's the deus ex machina: playoff expansion is always, always driven by the desire to make it rain with television rights fees.
Which makes postseason creep inevitable. Still, it's worth discussing. Hampton, where do you stand? Are you for spreadin' the playoff wealth around?
Or, by allowing more teams behind the postseason's velvet rope, are we—Fox News voice—punishing regular-season success and excellence?
As you know, Patrick, I may be of a liberal/libertarian political bent, but when it comes to sports I'm usually to the right of Goldwater. A part of me does hate to see baseball destroying all the things that make it unique. Interleague play, for instance. To me, it's been a big, fat flop. Save for the few series played by natural rivals, like the A's versus Giants, or Mets and Yankees—series that matter to fans far more to players—mixing the leagues during the regular season has done nothing but destroy some of the game's mystique and create a few weekends of games that are only half as important in the standings.
That same Paleo-con part of me objects to the ever-growing pressure for more postseason play in all sports. It smacks of something impatient and almost childish in our culture—something which rewards the hot streak over perseverance. Do you know what NASCAR used to do before instituting their Chase for the Sprint Cup? The same thing IndyCar still does: At the end of the season, the driver with the most points is declared the champ. No playoffs or play-ins or wildcard games. None of that rigmarole.There is undeniably a certain stark elegance to that, and it truly would be shame to see baseball go the way of the NBA and NHL, for instance, where making the playoffs doesn't mean you are one of the best teams. It just means you aren't one of the worst.