My dad, RubyVader, recently sent me a link to an article where the head of the Major League Baseball players’ union discussed the MLB postseason. The union head expressed that players would be open to expanding the postseason party from the current format, which includes 8 teams, to a new one including 10. To be fair, the article does not imply an opinion from owners one way or the other regarding postseason expansion, although Commissioner Bud Selig seems interested in the idea. You could argue that his support alone is evidence that the idea would be terrible for the sport.

Anyway, RubyVader asked me for my opinion and I wrote him an email containing my arguments for and against expanding the postseason. He suggested I share the email and, since I haven’t updated since the Flyers defeated the Bruins in the playoffs, I decided to take his advice since I am not a teenager and understand that it is ok to do that. What do you think about the postseason expansion idea?

Season Length/Playoff Representation Ratio

Forget the 8 out of 30 teams in MLB vs 12 out of 32 in NFL stat. For me, the more important stat is the length of the season.

  • NFL teams play a paltry 16 games, and then nearly 50% qualify for postseason play.
  • NBA and NHL teams play 82 games, and then over 50% qualify for postseason play.
  • MLB teams play a marathon 162 games, and then barely over 25% qualify for postseason play.

Sympathy for the outsiders
On one hand, I feel that it must be very disappointing to play 162 games and find yourself on the outside because you finished with one less win than another team (see: San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants, 2010) or because you lost a one game play-in despite winning 103 of those games (see: San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves, 1993). Baseball players must be so pissed when they win 90+ games and miss the postseason, and then watch an 8-8 NFL team qualify for the postseason. When looked at this way, it seems like it would only be fair to ‘reward’ more teams after the marathon season by granting them an opportunity to win a championship.

No love for the Boo-Hoo Jays (and other losers!)
On the other hand, the NFL’s 16 game season leaves a wide margin for error — one mistake, like a missed FG at the end of the game — has much more significance for playoff implications. The 8-8 playoff team may have been one or two plays away from being 10-6, and a 10-6 team may have been only one or two plays away from being 8-8. Because 16 games is such a small sample size to determine a team’s true worth, it almost becomes necessary to let more teams join the playoffs. By the same token, after 162 games, you know whether a baseball team is good or not.

The Phillies did not win 97 games this season because of a few lucky plays, just as the Pirates did not lose 105 games because of a few flukes. After 162 games, you can safely say the Phillies are a good team that deserved the #1 playoff seed, and the Pirates are a terrible team that deserves the #1 or 2 draft pick in 2011. It would be heartbreaking for the #1 seeded Phillies to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals, who would have entered the playoffs as the #5 seed and did not prove over 162 games to be a top contender in their league. This is in stark contrast to teams like the 2006 Steelers or 2007 NY Giants who won the Super Bowl as #6 seeds but, given the argument above, could have won one or two more games based on luck and ended up as a higher seed anyway.

It’s a Beautiful Day (or not) in your Divisional Neighborhood

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
On the third hand, what about a team that plays in the “wrong” division? How many times has a baseball team missed the playoffs because they finished in 3rd place in their division, despite having more wins than a playoff team who qualified because they play in a weak division. This did not happen in 2010 because the eight playoff teams had the top four records in their respective divisions — all eight teams had 90+ wins (has that ever happened before?)! A team missing the playoffs because they play in the “wrong” division last happened in 2008, when the NY Mets (89 wins), Houston Astros (86 wins), St Louis Cardinals (86 wins), and Florida Marlins (84 wins) all had more or equal wins as the Los Angeles Dodgers (84 wins), but missed the playoffs because they did not play in a division as weak as the NL West.

Then again, Mr. Rogers is for toddlers and not adults
On the fourth hand, adding two more teams would take away much of the magic and stories of the past few years. Remember how awesome it was when the Phillies stole the division and playoff opportunity away from the Mets in 2007 and 2008, thanks to their epic and historical chokes? Well, in 2008 the Mets would have qualified as the #5 seed, eliminating that fun story. The Mets still would have missed out in 2007 (they had 88 wins against the Padres 89), but having a 5th seed also would have eliminated the craziness and fun that would have occurred if the Phillies, Mets, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres had all tied with 89 wins. Remember when they were talking about their being a three-tiered post-regular season ‘tournament’ to determine the National League’s playoff teams? Using NFL-style tiebreakers, as the article discusses, would eliminate that fun as well.

My final word on the final herd

Overall, I’m against expanding the MLB postseason format to include 10 teams. I know that the thrilling pennant race still exists despite adding two more teams via wild card in the mid-90s, but I think adding even more teams would cheapen the system a little by making the races between even lower-quality teams. I also think 162 games is adequate time to prove you are a top team that deserves a playoff berth. If you can’t win enough games during that grind, you don’t deserve a chance at the World Series.

Just for fun…

By the way, if you added one more team from each league in 2010, the Padres (90 wins, NL West) and Boston Red Sox (89 wins, AL East) would have joined the postseason party.

Ok, so “today” is actually 8 weeks later.  My wife posted her entry on the benefits of a fall birthday on April 10, and I started writing mine the next day. Then, I encountered other priorities, a best man speech, podcasting, a lack of motivation, and a hard drive crash after finishing, which required a rewrite. Excuses aside, the summer is approaching and my rebuttal is below. Hopefully you judge my side of the argument for its content and not for its delay. Laura, a dedicated reader who was disappointed by this delay, has a spring birthday. Maybe she will add her thoughts on why it is better to have a spring birthday?

Summer is the best time to have a birthday. Without a doubt. After all, most people spend nine months of the year looking forward to the summer, which is arguably the best of the four seasons. That’s because summer represents freedom, fun, and friends – which are all part of a good birthday!

I cannot imagine any worse way to spend my birthdays as a young Brando than to have been in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture on something that really won’t be useful in 10 years, like the Medicis, isosceles triangles, or mitochondria (I can confidently make this claim because it is now 10 years later and I only use this knowledge for quizzo). Fortunately, I never once had to sit in a classroom on my birthday because my birthday is in July.

But the perks of a summer birthday don’t end with an educational vacation. My first 15 birthdays were an endless stream of awesome, including pool parties, picnics, and even Phillies’ games featuring serenades from ballpark hosts. I then became a counselor at a summer camp, so the past 13 birthdays have been spent with 500 of my closest friends. At summer camp, you can experience 500 people genuinely singing and wishing you a “Happy Birthday” – after parading you on a chair for a shower of High 5’s! Do they do that at winter camp? Oh wait, they don’t exist!

Forget eating stale donut fillings with your classmates while wearing mittens; nothing beats a summer birthday!

What do you think? Is it better to have a fall or summer birthday? Or do you prefer winter or spring? Make your argument, and keep it to 250 words or less!

Also, feel free to suggest Topic #2 for our He Said / She Said series!

As you may have noticed, the preceding entry was posted by my wife, Ali.  The idea behind that entry was that we were looking for a way to promote a little creative writing between us, and the idea we came up with was to pick a topic and then take a “He Said / She Said” type of approach to the topic.  The only rules, or guidelines, are that we cannot read the other person’s post before we upload our own, and that we limit our posts to 250 words or less. We are experimenting with the idea and format, so we wanted a simple topic just to kick things off.  Since her birthday is in November and mine is in July, we decided our first topic would be “Why it is better to have a (Fall/Summer) Birthday.”  Ali posted her entry on Friday, and I will add mine today.  I promise I have not read Ali’s entry yet, and have only copied the URL for linking purposes.

Feel free to share your ideas for a topic you’d like to see us debate in this space.  We plan on getting a little more philosophical and provocative than “Best time to have a Birthday.”  We are also debating whether or not to adapt Twitter’s 140 character limit by limiting ourselves to 140 words instead of 240. If so, would this format be called Twlogging? Twentries?

Brandon’s wife speaking here…just a random little post for everyone. My birthday is November 13th. I share this birthday with Robert Louis Stevenson, Chris North, and Whoopi Goldberg-quite a diverse bunch, if I do say so myself. To convince you why the timing of my birthday is the best, let me first get specific, then I’ll get general.

Specific: having a birthday in mid-November is the best because mid-November is 9 months from…Valentine’s day! This means anyone born mid-November was definitely conceived out of love. The rest of you…who knows?

General: Fall birthdays are great because everyone is around to celebrate – in the Winter no one wants to leave the house; in the Spring people are busy with graduations, weddings, and whatnot; in the Summer everyone is out of school and on vacation. However, in the Fall, people stay put as they recover from vacations and school starts up again — but people are also still willing to do fun birthday things with you because the weather is still decent.

Now who’s in the mood for some birthday cake…?