Forty years ago, teams would play 162 games and be rewarded with a trip to the World Series if they managed to compile the best regular-season record in their league. With each expansion of the playoff system, the payoff for being the best team over a six-month season was diminished. The other effect that it had was occasionally making the first two levels of the playoffs, the Divisional Championship Series and League Championship Series, more exciting than the World Series. Hell, sometimes teams have endured thrilling – and gruelling – playoffs, only to find themselves in a World Series that turned out to be anticlimactic.
But the principal argument for expanding the first round to (potentially) seven games is that the integrity of the game is imperiled by having such a short series determine who moves on to the next round.
The four-of-seven format is at least a tolerable number with historical roots dating back more than 100 years, and in any event it provides a bit more cushion for a team that might stumble – for whatever reasons – in those early games. See how handsomely the four-of-seven format worked for the Boston Red Sox in 2004.
And I am not talking about this year’s playoffs or even any particular year. As I blog this, the Cubs and Brewers are down 0-2, but I’m not a fan of either, despite the geographic proximity to Iola, Wis.
I’m still a Mets fan. If only we could have expanded the regular season to 166 games, I think we could have been alright.