LCS scheduling format condensed
Change could be first of many for postseason schedule
Wednesday's announced condensing of each League Championship Series by one off-day may be just the beginning of a formative shift in the entire playoff schedule."This is a first step," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com before his club played the Royals in a Cactus League game at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "I think it's an important first step and could lead to a really good [postseason] format eventually." On the docket is a probable expansion of each of the four Division Series from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven format. That will have to be collectively bargained between the owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association when a new Basic Agreement is negotiated next year. The current agreement expires on Dec. 11, 2011. The playoff scheduling changes were born from a special committee - formed by Commissioner Bud Selig -- dealing with on-field issues, which has met several times already this year. Scioscia is one of four veteran managers on the 14-man committee, joining Joe Torre of the Dodgers, Jim Leyland of the Tigers and Tony La Russa of the Cardinals. "That's obviously something we talked about," Scioscia said about expanding the first round to seven games. "There's some complications there in scheduling, but it's definitely being considered." The union is in favor of that concept, Michael Weiner, the new executive director, said upon his election to replace Don Fehr late last year. "There is a lot of sentiment for a seven-game Division Series," Weiner said. "I think a properly constructed postseason schedule could accommodate three seven-game series, but still have it extend over a shorter period of time than what happened [last] year." The three playoff rounds last year were played over the course of four weeks from Oct. 7 to Nov. 4. The LCS expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven format in 1985, and the LDS was added a decade later. Selig announced on Wednesday that the schedules for the 2010 American League and National League Championship Series have been shortened by eliminating an off-day between Games 4 and 5. "It is a lot of off days," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "It worked out well for us, but it is a lot of off days and players like continuity. You think about you work all year long to try to prove who's the best team, and it's good with me."
The off-day was added after rain washed out both travel days in the 2006 NLCS, won by the eventual World Series champion Cardinals over the Mets in seven games. It hasn't been needed since then.At the same time, a travel day was added between possible Games 4 and 5 of the LDS. But there hasn't been a five-game first-round series since then. The World Series was also pushed back four days from a Saturday night start to a Wednesday night start to accommodate an optimum television schedule. Both of those alterations remain in place. "Scheduling is a key area in which the members have expressed many interesting ideas and opinions," Selig said in a statement. "The removal of the off-day during both League Championship Series marks the first step in a process that will ultimately result in an improved postseason format for our game." Scioscia expressed his qualms with the old format both in public and in a long private telephone call with Selig, during and after his Angels' rain-delayed six-game ALCS loss to the Yankees this past October that took 10 days to play. The Yankees went on to defeat the Phillies in a six-game World Series. "It changes everything," Scioscia said then about the four open days in the series that followed a five-day break between the end of their ALDS and the start of the ALCS. "It's hard to get any continuity with a schedule like this. You play all season with five starters, then you get to the postseason and need only two or three. It penalizes teams with depth." Charlie Manuel, who managed his Phillies to a five-game, rain-swamped and delayed World Series victory over the Rays in 2008, said on Wednesday that he was ambivalent about contracting the postseason schedule. "Does it matter to me?" he said. "It depends on what kind of pitching we have when we get there. It depends how we can swing our pitching. If we can still stay strong with our pitching, yeah. If not, I don't think so." The schedule is already established for this year's postseason, with three Division Series games opening the playoffs on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Game 1 of the ALCS is scheduled to take place on Friday, Oct. 15, and Game 1 of the NLCS scheduled for the next day. The first game of the World Series is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 27. For the second consecutive year and third time in baseball history, the World Series will end in November. "We've talked about [the best-of-seven] first round," Selig said during the owners' meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz., this past January. "The problem is everybody wants to talk about us going into November and then they want to add to the schedule." Owners are against shortening the regular season back from 162 games to the original 154, Selig has said. That would shorten the season by a week and make room for an extended postseason format that could include another Wild Card team in each league, plus a short play-in round.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.