Playoff expansion gets final approval
With less than a month to go before Opening Day, baseball at last decided who’s in and who’s out come October.
Now, even a third-place team can win the World Series.
Major League Baseball made it official yesterday, expanding the playoff format to 10 teams by adding a wild-card club to each league.
“I hope we get that extra spot,’’ said new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, whose team is coming off a 56-106 finish that was the worst in the majors. “I think it’s great any time you have more markets involved.’’
This is the first switch in MLB’s postseason format since the 1995 season, when wild cards were first added. The move creates a new one-game, wild-card round in the AL and NL between the teams with the best records who are not division winners.
The additions mean 10 of the 30 MLB teams will get into the playoffs. That’s still fewer than in the other pro leagues - 12 of 32 make it in the NFL, and 16 of 30 advance in the NBA and NHL.
“This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year,’’ commissioner Bud Selig said.
Also, for 2012, the five-game division series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by home games for the higher seed. After that, it will return to the 2-2-1 format previously used. MLB said with schedules already set for this season, the postseason had to be compressed.
Burnett out 2-3 months
Newly acquired Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett is expected to miss 2-3 months while recovering from surgery for a facial fracture, forcing Pittsburgh to rearrange its plans for Opening Day. Burnett, acquired from the Yankees Feb. 19, had surgery yesterday in Pittsburgh for a broken orbital bone near his right eye. He was injured when he fouled a ball off his face Wednesday during a bunting drill . . . Manny Ramirez saw just three pitches and took two swings in his Oakland debut. He never got the ball out of the infield. Still, just being there seemed enough for now. “I feel good,’’ he said afterward, adding with a laugh, “I make contact.’’ Ramirez grounded into a double play and bounced out in the Athletics’ 8-5 loss to the Mariners. Ramirez has to sit out the first 50 games of the season for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy . . . The Rays are being cautious with Evan Longoria after he was hit on his right hand by a pitch during an intrasquad game Thursday. X-rays of his bruised hand were negative . . . The Indians announced Justin Masterson will start their opener April 5 against Toronto . . . Former major league All-Stars Nomar Garciaparra and Lou Brock are among seven players and coaches elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.