Major League Baseball expanded its postseason to ten teams on Friday, adding one more wild-card team to each league.
Under the new playoff format, the two teams with the best records who do not win their divisions will meet in a one-game, wild-card round to begin the postseason. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig supports the new format saying ”this change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year.”
Both the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays are positioned to benefit from the rule change, which represents the first time Major League Baseball has changed its playoff format since 1995. The Marlins are in a division that boasts two of the best rotations in baseball, with the Phillies and Braves. The Rays are coming off a spectacular season in which they clinched the American League Wild Card on the last day of the regular season. With the new scenario it is possible for the third place team in a division to win the World Series.
Until Friday’s rule change, head-to-head records were used to determine the wildcard if both teams ended the season with identical records.
If this rule change had been in place last year, the Rays would have played Boston for the right to face the Rangers in the Divisional round. Also, the eventual World Series Champion Cardinals would have had to play Atlanta before moving on and facing the Phillies.
In addition to the change in playoff format, the Houston Astros will adopt the DH and switch over to the American League West as part of baseball’s new labor agreement. The move is to equalize the chances of every team making the playoffs. The MLB now has two 15-team leagues, with three divisions in each.
The Tampa Bay Rays will begin their Spring training schedule Saturday in Fort Myers against the Minnesota Twins. Former-Orioles slugger Luke Scott is expected to make his debut for the Rays, the first pitch is scheduled for 1:35pm on Saturday, March 3rd.
Miami will have its first Spring training game in Jupiter on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals. The game will provide a first glance at the new-look Marlins, who revamped their image and roster this offseason by changing their uniforms and signing free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes. The game will start at 1:05pm.