The news this week is that the Astros sale is final and they’ve agreed to move to the AL West for 2013. This means the schedule will consist of 30 interleague games, all season long, as well as the 72 against your own division, and another 60 against the rest of your league. I happen to like it, besides the keeping the DH thing that gives the AL an unfair advantage. A 2nd wild card berth will also be added with a one-game sudden death playoff for the true Wild Card spot.
These changes were made to even up the leagues as well as put the emphasis on winning the division. Winning the division guarantees you’ll make the Division Series, although doesn’t give you any additional benefit _in_ any of the series besides home field over the Wild Card. I’d actually like to see that eliminated now, and just go with best record. If a 94 win wild card team already has to dispatch with a lesser team in a sudden death match, let them have the home field after that if they’re playing an 88 win division winner.
For those of you that still think the balanced schedule is important, this new format would include that for the divisional race, although not the wild card race. Each division would play the same set of interleague teams. What I’d be curious about is the tie-breakers. Previously if two teams were tied for the division and wild card, but both would make the playoffs, the team with the better record is awarded the division. While I think there is merit to keeping the same format, emphasizing that you need to beat the teams in your division to actually win it, I could see where it’s a tough pill to swallow to technically have the best record in the division and have to play a sudden death game.
This format has the potential to create a lot of heartbreak. Especially the first couple of years as teams leading in the Wild Card are used to coasting and preparing for the playoffs. To then potentially go home one day after the season ends is going to feel much like we felt as Mets fans in 2007 and 2008, or Reds fans felt in 1999. I suspect the winning team will treat the game as pretty much an extension of the regular season, not getting overly excited about winning that ‘first round’ game.
Many will dislike the extra interleague, but I’ve got no more desire to see another series against the Dodgers than the Angels. Roster construction in the National League may take on a different form. With interleague play scattered throughout the season, and more of it, NL teams may feel the need to carry more of a DH type player on the bench. None of this is official yet of course, but it looks like it’s pretty close to accurate and finalized. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out, but I think it could be fun.