NEW YORK — The Braves are remembered for one of baseball’s epic collapses.
Too bad for Atlanta the playoffs weren’t expanded a year earlier.
Negotiators for baseball players and owners are working toward an agreement to increase the postseason field to 10 teams this season. They had hoped to reach a deal by Thursday, but both sides said talks could continue if they needed additional time to deal with the details of adding a second wild-card team in each league.
If there had been additional wild-card teams last season, the Braves would have made the playoffs in the NL, while the Boston Red Sox would have qualified in the AL. Instead, each missed the postseason by a game, both going down with historic September swoons.
When players and owners signed their agreement for a new labor contract in November, the section covering the postseason established a March 1 goal for deciding whether the playoffs would increase by two teams for 2012 or 2013.
The deal would establish a new one-game, wild-card round in each league between the teams with the best records who are not division winners, meaning a third-place team could win the World Series.
Don’t count on it, said Braves pitcher Tim Hudson.
The wild-card winner would face a major disadvantage going through the rest of the playoffs, according to Hudson. Last season, St. Louis passed the Braves for the wild card on the final day and went on to capture the World Series.
“The only good thing about it is one more team (in each league) gets in the playoffs,” he said. “But it totally handicaps the wild-card team. Both teams will probably have to expend their best pitcher to win that game. Plus, it’s another day they have to use their bullpen. Even if you get by that one game, the chances of winning the next round are not very good.”
The Cardinals became the fifth wild-card team to win the World Series
since the playoff field doubled in 1995, going from two division winners in each league to three division winners and a wild card. Other wild-card champions were the Florida Marlins in 1997 and 2003, Anaheim in 2002 and Boston in 2004.
Adding two more playoffs teams has been complicated because the regular-season schedule was drafted last spring and summer, and the extra game has to be put in place in a manner that doesn’t disrupt the World Series schedule. In a further complication, the sides reached a consensus that ties for division titles would be broken on the field with a tiebreaker game under the new format, not by head-to-head record.
Head-to-head record has been used since 1995 to determine first place if both teams are going to the postseason. But the sides decided with the start of a one-game, winner-take-all wild-card round, the difference between first place and a wild-card berth is too important to decide with a formula and that a tiebreaker game should be played.