Thursday, March 16, 2006

What if baseball had a single championship game instead of a championship series?

In the midst of all the St. Patrick's Day articles on Slate, I found this one about the World Baseball Classic, which is employing single-elimination playoffs to determine the champion. This is a significant departure from what we're used to watching come October every year, and I remember reading an article once that asked why the Superbowl and football in general drew so many more viewers than did the World Series or baseball. The answer seemed to be how the season was structured: in baseball, there are 162 games, in which teams play each other multiple times, and even the best teams still lose a lot of games. In football, there are only 16 games, and how your team ranks against others is judged solely by whether or not you beat them. And trash-talking is a lot more fun when you can say your team flat-out beat the other guy's, rather than saying your team beat the other guy's team more than his beat yours.

But what if baseball was structured that way too?

Here's a thought experiment: What if baseball, like football, played one game a week for a 16-week season? The team's ace pitcher could now start every game. The best positional players would never get a day off. The intensity and focus would never wane (as they necessarily do in the midst of six games in six days in two cities).

In these circumstances, the best baseball teams might well go 12-4. Or even 14-2. And we might be less apt to consider baseball a game of chancy vicissitudes and random luck. The big upsets ... would not be chalked up to the baseball's nutty nature, but instead would be recognized for what they are: one team outplaying another on a given day.

Interesting article. Read the whole thing here.

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