BASEBALL, MAJOR LEAGUES, mets, playoffs, soccer, SPORTS, WFAN, world series, yankees -


Baseball, historically, has moved at a glacial pace when it comes to change. All changes or new rules are usually met with opposition and disagreement.  Whether it was the American League adopting the designated hitter (which the National League didn't adopt until almost fifty years later), use of analytics, the "ghost" runner or mandatory number of faced batters for relievers, the game has stayed the same, relatively. From 1899-1961, Major League Baseball played a regular season schedule of 154 games. At the end of the season, the winners of the National and American Leagues met in the World Series to determine the champion. That meant that 14 teams went home no matter their record - success or failure. Despite team movement and limited expansion, this was the format for sixty-two years. In 1962, following the addition of four more teams (two in each league), the schedule expanded to 162 games. Still, the only playoffs following the regular season was the World Series. In 1969, when the league expanded yet again, the leagues split into two divisions (East and West) and the winners of each division met for the league pennant and the winner of those League Championship Series met in the World Series. And that's how it stayed until 1994.


Well, sort of. You see, 1994 was supposed to be the first round of expanded playoffs following more expansion and the (then) twenty-six team, two division league became morphed to twenty-eight teams with three divisions in both the American and National leagues. The playoff plans were derailed when the players went on strike. But in 1995, the playoffs resumed with the expanded playoffs of three division winners and a wild card team. In many years, the wild card team was actually better than one of the division winners, and it was sort of a consolation prize where the wild card team "settled" for its seeding rather than busting it out to become the division winner. The late 1990s was a great example where annually the Yankees and Red Sox were the two best teams in the league despite being in the same division. The Red Sox "settled" for the wild card. It wasn't until 2018 when baseball, again, put a premium on winning the division by expanding the playoff picture to seven in each league so that whichever team had the best record earned a first-round bye while the remaining six teams would battle it out in the first round. Finally, the regular season had meaning and the wild card team had to pay a "penalty" for not winning the division. And then the playoffs expanded again by one team eliminating the incentive for best record in each league.


The regular season has all but become meaningless. Win the division or the wild card - who cares! Anything can happen in the playoffs and a Wild Card team could run the table. So, here's the dilemma: How do you make the playoffs exciting while keeping a 162-game regular season meaningful in a thirty-team league? Introducing:

Here's The Plan
Many soccer leagues through the world have a system that rewards teams for regular season success while penalizing those that don't. Even the most popular of teams have dealt with the very real possibility of relegation. The benefit: they didn't like it so they busted their collective butts to make sure it didn't happen again.
RELEGATION would eliminate of all of the divisions and traditional American and National leagues. Instead, the thirty teams will be split into two divisions. The top twenty teams, from the previous season, would be in the Main Division (MD) and the bottom ten teams in the Relegation Division (RD).
The schedule would be unbalanced where each division plays 2/3 of their games against the other teams in their division and 1/3 against the other division. In order to stay in the MD, you need to finish the regular season as one of the top twelve teams and qualify for the playoffs. The bottom eight get RELEGATED to the RD where the top eight teams from the RD get moved into the MD for the next season. In essence you need to have regular season success to make the playoffs and stay in the MD or else you're moved for the next season to the lower division. Every game matters!
So, what would it look like? Based on the 2022 regular season, the standings would look like this to start the 2023 season:
If the 2023 season ended right now, the RD and MD would look like this heading into the 2024 season:
See the difference? Do you see how the regular season will matter? Can you imagine a scenario where the Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Orioles would start a season knowing they won't qualify for the playoffs? 

The Playoffs 

RD teams don't get any form of post season play. But the MD would have a four-round playoff system for the top 12 teams (remember, the bottom 8 get relegated)
Round 1 (Best of three)
The teams that ended the regular season in the top four slots would have a bye. Again, this round rewards best regular season records. If the team finished in the slot of 5-8, then they get two home games. 9-12 would get 1 home game.
5 vs. 12
6 vs. 11
7 vs. 10
8 vs. 9
Round 2 (Best of seven)
Teams ranked 1-4 would have five scheduled home games and the lower ranked teams only two (rewarding best record)
Seed 1 vs. the lowest remaining seed
Seed 2 vs. the second lowest remaining seed
Seed 3 vs. the third lowest remaining seed
Seed 4 vs. the fourth lowest remaining seed
Round 3 (Best of seven)
Highest Ranking Seeds Get four home games
Highest seed vs. lowest seed
Second highest seed vs. third seed
World Series (Best of seven)

Highest Ranking Seeds Get four home games



In order to get out of the RD, you have to improve play by bolstering the roster. RD teams can't keep doing business the way they had been. Any team in the RD must have a minimum salary floor of $65 million dollars (there is no limit to how much they spend). Teams in the MD do not have a salary floor - they merely need to maintain their status in the MD by making the playoffs each year. Higher payrolls mean more money to the players (a win for the union). To improve and get out of the RD the owners will need to bring in better players thereby helping their bottom line with box office drawing players (a win for the owners)


Rosters for both divisions will expand to thirty players on the major league roster. Teams may only dress twenty-five players for all games. Those other five roster spots are inactive to be used for starting pitchers waiting for their turn in the rotation or to rest players with nagging injuries. Ten players from the minors can be swapped in and out depending on injuries but cannot be sent back to the minors for 14 days following promotion (or brought back for 14 days following demotion). Players on the injured list may replace one of those on the thirty-man roster. There are no limits on how many pitchers or hitters you may outfit the team with. There are no roster adjustments during a game. There is still a trade deadline on July 31, but rosters do not expand in September. Playoff rosters must be made up of the thirty players that ended the season. Again, in the playoffs, games must only be manned by 25 active players.




So that's the plan. In order for it to work, you'd need an agreement between the players and the owners. This concept (or experiment) must last for five years to determine if it's a success or a failure. Other sports have found ways to adopt and adapt to the changing needs of the audience. Is this idea radical? Yes, but baseball needs to find a way to engage younger fans and shake up the talking points for the older/traditional fans. People might love it or hate it. Could the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs or Astros wind-up relegated? Absolutely. Could the Mets, with the highest payroll wind up being relegated? Yup! Could a team switch Divisions every other year? Also, absolutely. Every game matters! Every win or loss will matter. April games will matter as much as ones in September. Either way, it will keep players, owners and fans on their toes with fears for where their teams will be positioned the following year.