LETTER: Baseball playoff series should be decided in one game, tennis-style

Friday, October 9, 2009 | 9:34 a.m. CDT; updated 9:31 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is baseball a business or a sport?

Why do you ask?

Well, the Twins/Tigers one-game playoff was exciting. And when you look at the most viewed sporting events, they tend to be one-game championships, not best-of-something series.

Yeah, so what — what’s your point?

Well if baseball were a business, they might think of switching to one-game playoff formats.

Then it wouldn’t be baseball.

Well, that’s why I want to know what baseball is. Business change and adjust to their market.

But they don’t change the business

Well, I don’t know about that. The movie industry has changed with the times— talkies, color pictures, etc.

What about all the historical baseball records?

Does the movie industry keep track of who holds the record for most average screen time per movie played? Anyway, aren’t the records a bit misleading? The season used to be 154 games, it's now 162. Or even better, all the postseason records: They don't seem fair to all the players who played before each league divided into divisions.

What do you mean?

Well, back before 1969, the only postseason series was the World Series. Now there are two additional “series” that count toward postseason numbers.

Well, get back to your main point: If you have single-game playoffs, won’t that put a premium on having only one great starting pitcher and one reliever? You wouldn’t have the issues of depth and consistency that we have now.

I think, with a few “minor” rule changes, you could still give the edge to a team that has several strong pitchers and that has a good bench.

What are these “minor” rule changes?

Why not take an idea from tennis?

Which idea?

Well, instead of playing for who has the highest total after nine innings, why not play until one team has won at least five innings?

I don’t understand.

Consider each inning like a set in tennis. If you win the inning, you win the set. Of course, in baseball, it is quite possible that in any inning, both teams score the same number of runs in their half-inning. That would be a tie and that would not count towards either team’s need to get five wins.

That part is a bit like championship chess matches. But it could mean the game goes more than 9 innings.

Exactly: That would be where depth comes into play.

So your idea is that baseball should have a one game championship for the where the team that is the first to win five innings advances?

Exactly. Instead of having divisional series, league championship series and World Series, have divisional games, league championships and a World Championship game.

That takes the approach of the NFL and college basketball. Aren’t those successful business models?

You know, you might have something there. In addition, you wouldn’t have as many blowouts, since one bad inning is only one inning/set lost. Even if you are down 4 innings to none, in theory, you could come back, just like in tennis being down 2 sets, you can still come back.

In fact, I think football should also adopt the best-of-sets idea: A football is over when one team has won three “quarters.”

What about when a quarter ends as tied?

You could then have an overtime-type rule: First team to score wins the quarter, or you could just call it a tie and have to play more than four quarters, sometimes, to get a winner.

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