MLB Realigns

Out of all of the major sports, the rules of baseball are in a league of their own. While nearly every sport uses an instant replay system to determine close calls, baseball only recently implemented a system in late 2008, and only to review home runs. As far as playoffs are concerned, baseball only lets in eight teams while football, basketball, and hockey have 12, 16, and 16 respectively. But starting in the 2012 season, the MLB will make a rare rule change and kick up the number of playoff teams to ten.

With many people claiming baseball to be a “slow paced game,” it is only fitting that rules are changed or adapted just as slowly. In fact, this is the first time since 1994 that the playoff format has been altered. 1994 featured the addition of a wildcard team in each league to shift the number of teams in the playoffs from six to eight. Interestingly enough, the last time the playoffs were expanded before 1994 was in 1969.

2012 marks the first year that a second wildcard team will be added in each league. Unlike the previous 18 seasons, the non-division-winner with the best record (in each league) will not automatically be entered into the division series. In order to decide who advances, two wildcard teams in each league will go head to head in a one-game playoff. The winner of that game will then enter the next round for the usual best of five game series.

“This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive postseason in professional sports,” says Commissioner Bud Selig.

Another major change is in store for 2013.  The Houston Astros will be moving from the National League to the American League. They will also be switching from the central division to the western division.

While this move may seem unimportant, particularly if one is not a fan of the Astros, it actually impacts every day of the baseball season.  Currently, the National League has 16 teams while the American League has 14. This allows for teams to always be playing another team in their own league except when designated interleague play, which first began in 1997,  is scheduled in May and June. With the move of the Astros to the American League, both leagues will have 15 teams.  This odd number means there must be at least one interleague game going on every day of the season.

Although the 2013 schedule has not been released, there are many theories as to how many interleague games will be played and how the new schedule will work.  However it gets done, one thing is for sure.  Baseball traditionalists will have to get used to some significant  change.