Following up: Planning for future postseasons, and this one

Credit an Athletic editor for a useful headline on Ken Rosenthal’s response to people freaking out over the prospect of expanded playoffs.

It’s called, “Don’t freak out over the prospect of expanded playoffs just yet.”

When Rob Manfred said during an online conference with Hofstra University that he was a “fan of the expanded playoffs,” Rosenthal says he didn’t mean THE expanded playoffs, but instead AN expanded playoffs, especially since the Major League Baseball Players Association would have to agree any permanent change. The MLBPA is skeptical about postseason expansion because it rewards mediocrity, and if mediocrity is acceptable, salaries suffer.

Whatever shape it takes, it’ll have to more properly reward division winners, which is something the current format fails to do. A wide-open format in a 60-game season makes some sense, because 60 games doesn’t necessarily reflect the best team in a regular season. In a season of 150 games or more, winning the division should have major benefits.

Rosenthal asked Bob Costas about his thoughts about where baseball can go from here, considering Costas still doesn’t like the original wild card. He passed along an idea from Jerry Reinsdorf:

“The three division winners get a bye,” Costas said. “Then you play single games — the 1 against the 4 among the wild cards, the 2 against the 3, obviously on the home field of the 1 and the 2. Then the two survivors play on the home field of the higher seed. So, you have to go 2-0 to get out of the wild-card round, even if you won 100 games and finished second behind the team that won 101. Then you enter the Division Series against the team that had the best record among the division winners.”

Such a plan, in Costas’ view, checks all the boxes, giving the league more playoff teams, the networks more elimination games and the teams more incentive to compete for division titles, which in turn should satisfy the union. “It’s a nod to both the modern and the traditional,” Costas said. “You should be subject to a crapshoot if you came in through the side door, even if you won 100 games.”

I’ve never seen the major issue with the one-and-done nature of the wild card game, because the fifth-best team in the league should have obstacles to get into the same position as the team with the best record. Last year’s Washington Nationals sneaked in through the wild card, but having to survive an extra game with such high stakes made their climb more legit.

My way of making it extra-cruel would be to give the fourth-best team a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three series. However, if you want to add more teams to the drama without making it feel like a wild card is a great accomplishment, then this also does the job.

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of the postseason, the White Sox can punch their ticket today with a victory or losses from the Mariners and Tigers, although a Reynaldo López-Kenta Maeda matchup poses a challenge of doing it themselves.

Why López instead of Dallas Keuchel?

“We’re going to go ahead and see what we can do to line ourselves up as we continue to move forward,” [Rick] Renteria said Wednesday. “You’ll probably see Keuchel in the Cincinnati series.” […]

In order to have Keuchel throw on regular rest in one of the first two games of the opening-round, best-of-three series — which starts Sept. 29 — he’d need to start Saturday or Sunday in Cincinnati. And that seems to be what the White Sox will do. On that schedule, he’d make his final regular-season start in either the finale of a four-game set against the Cleveland Indians or the opener of the final series of the regular season against the Cubs.

If I have objections to this idea, they’re rooted in suspicion about the state of Keuchel’s back more than any cost-benefit analysis (WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?). As satisfying as it would be to win the Central, there’s no particular reward to winning the division this year, and the achievement can be undermined if they risk having their best pitchers out of sorts for the opening round.

Besides, it’s not just López. Here’s the kind of lineup the White Sox have to fend off a righty who kills righties:

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of Reinsdorf, as the expiration of the CBA looms following the 2021 season, it’s worth keeping an eye on anything he’s doing that reflects the hawkish drive that made him such a factor in labor disruptions of the 1980s and 1990s.

Right now, Andy Martino of Mets network SNY says that Reinsdorf is one of the owners who is a potential threat to Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the New York Mets. There only needs to be a group of seven to disrupt the deal, and Reinsdorf was in the corner of Alex Rodriguez’s bid to buy the team.

In that respect A-Rod has enlisted the support of White Sox board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who has long been a staunch Cohen adversary and successfully lobbied against his bid to buy the Dodgers in March 2012. A-Rod and Reinsdorf have long had a strange bedfellows relationship. A couple of days after being handed down his record 211-game suspension in August 2013, the Yankees were in Chicago when A-Rod met privately with Reinsdorf in an effort to have him intercede with Commissioner Bud Selig to get the suspension reduced.

Cohen’s business history includes convictions of insider trading and toxic-workplace allegations inside his company, and while Jim Crane was able to buy the Astros despite similar issues, the multiple scandals that have unfolded under his watch — the Brandon Taubman fiasco, followed by the banging scheme — encourage the league to consider character if they want to.

There’s also the idea that Cohen is so wealthy that he can hand out unwise salaries that screw up the market for owners, which is probably the bigger thing.

(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I don’t hate Costa’s plan. Definitely agree with the need to reward teams for winning divisions.