Selig speaks in Detroit
Commissioner talks parity; ponders postseason changes
DETROIT -- While Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig pointed to the success of the Tigers as part of the success of the Wild Card system, he left open the possibility of making it tougher for the Wild Card to advance.
The last four World Series have featured at least one Wild Card team, and the Tigers are one win away from making it five after taking a 3-0 lead in the American League Championship Series. Wild Cards won three straight World Series championships -- the Angels in 2002, the Marlins in 2003 and the Red Sox in 2004 -- until the White Sox swept the NL Wild Card champion Astros last year.
As Selig took in the atmosphere at a chilly Comerica Park for Game 3 of the ALCS Friday afternoon, he used it as a venue to tout both the playoff system and the game's parity in a pregame session with reporters.
"I can't imagine, given the abuse that I took 12, 14 years ago, that anybody today can imagine this sport without the Wild Card," Selig said. "The only question I get now is why don't you have more Wild Cards. The Wild Card has worked well. When you look at the records of the Wild Card teams, generally they're won 95, 96, 97 games. Has it worked the way we put on the board? Definitely, no question."
The Tigers won 95 games in the regular season and were in line to win the AL Central before losing it to the Twins on the last day of the regular season. While Minnesota was swept out of the first round, Detroit broke out of its season-ending funk to upset the Yankees, who shared the best record in the Majors with the crosstown Mets.
The defending champion White Sox didn't advance to the playoffs despite 90 wins, a total that would've won the NL Central and NL West going away. Their elimination and the Yankees' exit ensured baseball will have its seventh different champion in as many years since the Bronx Bombers won three straight titles from 1998-2000.
"We don't have to take a seat to anybody now in terms of parity," Selig said. "I know that people can always find things that are still wrong with the system, but when you have the number of playoff teams that we've had coming from different sources, six straight different World Series winners, it's hard to say baseball [doesn't have parity]. I think that anybody who studies it will understand that baseball today takes a back seat to nobody in terms of balance of ballclubs. All you have to do is look at the teams that are in it -- here, Oakland, Minnesota, San Diego. I'm quite satisfied that the system that was put into place a decade ago is working almost better than I thought [it could].
Later in the session, however, Selig said he will consider ways to give division champions more of an advantage against Wild Card teams, possibly fewer home games for the Wild Card team.
"It's something that we're going to look at," Selig said.
One change that will not be discussed is expanding the Division Series to a best-of-seven format instead of best-of-five. He doesn't want the season lasting any longer than it does now, and there's resistance to shrinking the regular season.
The schedule already will expand. The postseason format can be changed after this year because the upcoming television contract calls for Game 1 of the World Series to take place on a Tuesday, rather than Saturday as it is now. It could also allow for schedule tweaks to avoid having two LCS games going on at the same time, something that happens each year.
FOX runs a split-national broadcast on the second day of LCS play. The LCS game that isn't on the network in a given market is moved onto cable station FX. Most of the nation was scheduled to see Game 1 of the NLCS on FOX last Wednesday before a rainout in New York left Game 2 of the ALCS as the only action.
"There has to be a better way to do it," he said. "It's only one day during the [LCS], but yes, the answer is we need to do something about that."
As for moving Friday's schedule to shift Game 3 of the ALCS to the afternoon and put Game 2 of the NLCS at night -- on what would've been an off-day for the NLCS until Wednesday's rainout -- Selig said the decision was up to weather. The forecast for Detroit and the chance for mixed precipitation Friday night was a concern.
As it was, the game time temperature at Comerica Park was 42, the lowest for a postseason game since Game 4 of the 1997 World Series.
"You try to make the best of situations," he said. "You know it's going to be cold here, but would you rather play at 4:30 in the afternoon, or 4:15, or start at 8:30 at night and go to midnight? The answer is obvious. And we had a situation in New York, given the fact that they were to have rain during the day there but it would get better as the day went on there. So what I did yesterday morning after a sleepless night sort of worrying about how to do it, I called everybody starting with Mr. [Dave] Dombrowski."
The other change Selig is considering is scheduling a day game in the World Series, but he's hesitant about it.
"I would like to see a day World Series game," Selig said, "and I hope somehow when we reconfigure it that we can certainly consider that. The problem is its ratings. Even today, we have a lot of day games during the playoffs, and the ratings for all day games are just not what night games are. So when people say to me, 'Well, you're depriving a lot of people,' in truth, if you want to look at the number of people watching, it gets greater and greater as the nights go on. So I've been somewhat disappointed in some of the day ratings, but that still doesn't diminish my desire to have a World Series game during the day. I'm not sure it's possible. The world has changed."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.