A Proposal to Change the Baseball Playoffs

Baseball needs to make a significant change in the format of its playoffs.  MLB should consider moving away from the traditional best of five, best of seven games format to round-robin tournament to determine the pennant winner for each league.  Changing the playoff format will likely increase fairness of the playoffs, improve television ratings, increase revenue, and more importantly reward the fans of the game.

The new format, which we can call the “Pennant Chase”, will have each team play a slate of games against all the other teams in the league playoff. The team at the end of the round robin with the best record will be awarded the league pennant and move onto the World Series which will still be the best of seven.  The number of games each team plays could be anywhere from nine to fifteen.  I favor an additional 12 games or three, four game series with two home and away for each team each series.  For example: This year the Nationals would have played the Giants, Cardinals, and Dodgers in three successive four game series.  This eliminates the home field advantage unless you want to reward the best record with an additional home game against the wild card team

The 12 game series allows MLB to wrap up the post season pennant tournament in two weeks with a couple off days thrown in.  That schedule will also have each team match up with the other team’s top 4 pitchers, staff vs. staff.  Basically, we are talking about two solid weeks of the four best teams in each league matching up against each other to determine the World Series matchup

Fairness:

Does the current format result in the “best” team winning or does it hinge on chance?  The more games played, the more likely the best team from each league will make the World Series by creating a larger sample size of games. A longer playoff better resembles the rhythm of the baseball season, where even the best teams only win 3 out of 5 games.   As it stands, half the teams are eliminated after a five game series.  In a league that plays 162 a five game series is similar to a coin toss.  The 2014 World Series was a matchup of the #4 National League and #5 American League Wild Card Teams.  The whole “anybody and win” vibe is interesting, but tends to invalidate a 162 game season when top seeds are bounced early in the playoffs.  The sudden and brutal losses the Tigers and Angels fans felt this year isn’t particularly good for the game as each team was swept in 3 games.

Due to the structure of the MLB schedule, even teams in the same league only have one home and away series over the course of the season.  The best teams in the league rarely face off against each other unless they share a division.  A twelve game slate allows the each team to match up head to head to determine the class of the league.  By the end of the two weeks, there is no way any team can feel like they got cheated out of an opportunity.

Fan Interest:

Baseball popularity is very different from many of the other major sports.  Individual teams have intense local followings.  We see this with 24 team’s attendance topping 2 million and 11 team’s local television ratings leading their markets in viewership.    National ratings tell us a different story, fewer and fewer of the intense local fans care about teams that play in other markets.  If they did we would see a doubling of viewership as teams were eliminated.  Many fans “check out” on the sport after their team loses.  Ensuring that all four teams get an additional 2 weeks of games, the “Pennant Chase” also ensures that MLB doesn’t lose top markets like Los Angeles or Washington/Baltimore in the first three or four days of the playoffs like happened this year.

Under the current format, game times and schedule are decided well after the tickets are sold.  Fans purchase tickets for all playoff games not knowing if a game 5 or 7 will even be played or if they can attend the game.  If a series ends early, teams have extended off days and playoffs lose momentum.  A full slate of games will provide a more predictable schedule for fans and a gradual build to the climatic games.

Financial:

The “Pennant Chase” format would also ensure a guarantee of playoff games for each team. In the current format each league plays a maximum of 18 games assuming that each series goes the maximum distance.  Each team would be guaranteed 6 home playoff games, a number that doesn’t dilute the value of the ticket, but will still allow teams to charge a premium price.

This year, the NL only had 14 total games and the AL had the minimum number, 11.  Under the new format, each league would likely have 25 total games in the above 12 game 4×3 format; each game is television commercials/content sold.  Assuming each game broadcast is four hours, this results an increase of 28 hours of broadcast content and 50 hour increase over this year.

A slate of playoff games would also ensure that the more and the biggest markets will stay active in the playoffs for its duration.  More markets, more interest, higher ratings.  Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees or even the Cubs have huge national fan bases that automatically increase the profile in ratings of any series they are in.

Problems

So what are the problems with this new proposal?  This is a very different way to look at Continue reading “A Proposal to Change the Baseball Playoffs”

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Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 4: The numbers few talk about behind the MLB TV money

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Justin,

Pardon me for forgetting how hard the Orioles had it in the 90s and 00′s during the Yankees / Red Sox bubble.  I was too busy thinking about how MLB gutted the Expos/Nationals farm team, stripped the franchise of all its scouts and spring training facility.  MLB also cut the team’s payroll to the point they would not allow September call ups and not drafting players on talent, but on sign-ability.  The MASN deal was just another indignity heaped on the franchise.  The only problem now is that Mike Rizzo and the team has been able to outrun all those problems, except for maybe Spring Training (that is another post) but this idiotic MASN TV deal.  Allow me to explain:

1.  The whole concept doesn’t make logistical sense.  The network owns the rights to 2 baseball franchises.  These teams play virtually every day for 6 months of the year.  Their games are always in conflict with each other; this necessitated adding MASN 2 to carry the other game.  For the first few years some cable networks didn’t have MASN 2 so games couldn’t be watched.  A viewer has no idea which channel the game is going to be on every day, because in the name of “fairness” the teams are on MASN 1 an equal amount of time.  The rest of the time MASN 2 sits as a blank channel on my cable system.  The Dodgers are on SportsNet LA and the Angels are on FS West; the Cubs are on WGN and White Sox are on CSN Chicago, the Mets are on SNY, the Yankees are YES; the Giants are CSN Bay Area, the A’s are CSN California.  You see how that works, MLB and Angelos don’t.  More on the huge problem later.

2.  The content of the network doesn’t satisfy anyone except those that happen to follow all Baltimore and Washington sports team.  Jim Harbaugh keeps begging for Redskins fans to let the Ravens be their AFC team, but most Skins fans are not interested.  Same with the O’s, I am willing to bet people from Baltimore are even less interested in Nats news than vice-versa.

The game broadcasts are actually very good.  I like the pregame and post game show and the quality of presentation is as good as any in baseball.  I really like the talent on the station and their website.  The problem with the network is everything else.  I can’t watch MASN content because it pretends that I care about anything going on in Baltimore sports.  I am from Washington, I watch Washington teams.  There is plenty of demand for Baltimore Ravens and Orioles news in Baltimore, I don’t care about either team at all, and watching MASN broadcasts requires half the time being spent on those teams.  Don’t even get me started on the shared booth during the battle of the “beltways”.  I can honestly say that TV contract colors my feelings about the O’s.  If I knew the Nats were a partner in the network I would be more forgiving of the content.  MASN really wants to pretend it is the Baltimore/Washington market but these are two distinct cities.

Continue reading “Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 4: The numbers few talk about behind the MLB TV money”

Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 3: The O’s reason for insisting on MASN

Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is part 3 of the debate over the MASN contract MLB and the O’s negotiated before the Nats moved to DC.

Jason, I’ll get to your questions in a minute, but I want to make one point.

The Orioles/Nationals MASN deal was made in 2004-05.  Since then, the Sports Television landscape has completely changed.  In many ways, this was a terrible business deal for the Orioles, because they committed themselves to a long-term contract, with no safeguards if the marketplace shifted.

I’ll explain.  Back in in 2004, MLB was dominated by the Yankees and the Red Sox, who both had their own cable TV networks, YES and NESN respectively.  By selling their networks to local cable distributors, these two teams brought in hundreds of millions of dollars per year, dwarfing every MLB team in terms of revenue.  In 2004, there were two leagues: the Yankees and Red Sox, and then the other 28 teams.  Oh, also, the Yankees and Red Sox were in the Orioles division.

I lived in Baltimore in 2004-05.  Things looked hopeless for the Orioles franchise back then.  Their two biggest division rivals had cash cow TV networks, two back-to-back ALCS appearances, a rolodex of bankable stars, and 20 times a year, the home team would get their brains beat in at a half-empty Camden Yard (the other half was filled with Red Sox or Yankee fans).  In 2005, the Orioles were entering their 8th straight losing season.  They probably felt closer to relegation than pennant contention.

Then, MLB decides to move the Expos into the Orioles backyard.  This probably felt like somebody twisting the knife after getting stabbed.

This was the landscape in 2005 when the MASN deal negotiated. Peter Angelos probably thought he NEEDED MASN to survive.  But then things started to change.  For reasons too complicated to explain here, the TV rights to live sporting events exploded in value.  The Rangers, Angles, Dodgers, and even the damn Padres signed multi-BILLION dollar deals.  Everyone was catching up to the Yankees and Red Sox.  More importantly, these teams were foregoing the team-owned TV network model and selling their rights directly to regional cable networks.

The Orioles thought the future was YES/NESN/MASN.  They were wrong.  And now the new marketplace threatens to blow up the MASN deal before its even 10 years old.

Now, your questions:

1.  Is there anything wrong with MASN?

I think MASN if fine.  The games are on TV and they’re in HD.  That’s all I care about.

It’s important to note the second reason MASN was created.  The first reason we’ve already addressed: keeping Nationals TV profits in Baltimore.  The second reason: keeping the Orioles on TV in DC.  The Orioles know how many fans they have in Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs.  The Orioles were the HOME TEAM for Washington DC for decades.  There are more DC baseball fans than you think who grew up watching Cal Ripken and will never switch allegiances.  It’s important to the Orioles to keep their games televised in DC.

Even if you hate the Orioles, as a baseball fan you have to enjoy having two games every night.  Not many markets have that.

Continue reading “Debate: The Nationals, the Orioles, Peter Angelos, and MASN Part 3: The O’s reason for insisting on MASN”

Bryan Harper not allowed to watch brother play baseball due to ridiculous MLB blackout rules

Bryan Harper, Bryce’s brother and Nats minor league player had a chance to feel the idiotic MLB blackout policy.

https://twitter.com/BryanHarper45/status/334134691332513793

The Nationals Have a Low BABIP

Watching Adam LaRoche lately, post Chipper film session, it is clear that the hole in his bat got smaller. The problem for Adam is everything he hits seems to be right at someone.   Ken Rosenthal on Saturday tweeted out the ranking of teams with the lowest Batting Average on Ball In Play teams so far this year.  A normal BABIP is .300.  Last year the MLB median was .297, the Nats finished the season .308.  What this all means is that the Nationals are not as lucky this year as last year.  Balls seem to be hit right at people , and that  key hit just hasn’t happened.  Saturday’s game was the first one for me that felt like last year.  Instead of trying to hold onto a lead, the Nats did what it took to score the winning run late in the game.  Oh, LaRoch has a BABIP of .196 this year.  Yikes!