Expanded playoffs growing on Blue Jays' brass

The Canadian Press

11/3/2010 6:05:43 PM

TORONTO -- Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Beeston is a baseball traditionalist at heart, but the notion of further expanding the playoffs is starting to grow on him.

Commissioner Bud Selig indicated over the weekend that adding two more wild-card teams for the 2012 post-season is something he and the owners plan to "seriously consider."

As part of the 14-man committee appointed and chaired by Selig to examine ways of improving the game, Beeston is in position to influence the process more than others.

Only when it comes to adding teams to the playoffs, it seems others have been working their influence over him.

"I'm not completely there yet," he said in an interview this week. "But I listen to all the arguments on both sides, I think you have to have an open mind about it. There are some compelling arguments in favour of expanding the playoffs and the ones against it go back to tradition.

"We as an industry are different from the other sport leagues and being different there's a sanctity to a schedule that lets the best teams proceed to the playoffs."

Still, adding two more teams to the playoffs is appealing to fans of the Blue Jays, who have been unable to break through the New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox logjam atop the American League East since they won the 1993 World Series.

Additional post-season berths would give them more avenues to end the drought, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos likes the idea of giving more teams a chance to get in.

"I think any expansion is good," he said. "We have eight of 30 teams make the playoffs, and I think in almost every other sport you get half or more than half making the playoffs.

"Just to increase it a little bit, still have less than half the teams make the playoffs, I think you'd make September baseball that much more exciting. I think it would be great for the game."

Beeston is getting closer to agreeing with Anthopoulos on that last part.

The first Blue Jays employee who briefly served as Selig's No. 2 at Major League Baseball's head office in New York, Beeston's opinion about the wild card began changing about three or four years back.

"I was dead against something like this a long time ago," he said. "I think as the years have progressed and the game has evolved, it seems to me that's it's worth considering right now.

"It's all been beneficial."

Figuring out how it will all work is the hard part before Selig and the committee.

One idea is for each league to have two wild cards that meet in a one-game, or a best-of-three playoff with a berth in the division series on the line. That scenario would also offer more of a reward to the division winners, something that has eroded over time with the wild card.

Another topic up for discussion is whether or not the division series should go from five to seven games. Opinion seems split on that, particularly because it would drag the season out even longer.

"Any team that's in it wants four out of seven, OK?" said Beeston. "I think any fan in baseball that doesn't have a team in it wants three out of five because that first game becomes so important, you just can't afford to lose it.

"The argument is very strong, you play 162 games and anything can happen in a single game, two out of three, or three out of five. More likely in a four out of seven, the better team is going to win."

The key, of course, remains getting in.

Some Blue Jays fans are looking at expanded playoffs as a panacea for the team's issues in the AL East. Beeston, meanwhile, wants no part of that.

"I'm sure someone can make that argument, but not personally for me because you've got to beat (the Yankees and Red Sox) anyway," said Beeston. "If you're going to be in the American League East you might as well be a team that's able to win it, and if you're able to win you've got a very good chance of winning the World Series."