There are enough playoff teams already

September 28, 2011

The Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs begin this weekend. Eight teams — four from the American League and four from the National League — will battle for a chance to be the World Series champion.

Recently, MLB officials have said they are thinking of adding two more teams — one from each league — to the playoffs.

Some baseball fans like the idea. After all, more teams would mean more chances for your favorite to make the playoffs. Who knows? With an expanded playoff system, maybe the Washington Nationals or even the Baltimore Orioles might sneak into the postseason.

Still, I don’t like the idea. I think too many sports have too many teams making the playoffs.

With eight of its 30 teams getting into the playoffs, baseball isn’t so bad. But 12 of the 32 National Football League teams qualify for the playoffs and a chance for the Super Bowl. Other sports are worse. In the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, more than half — 16 of the 30 teams — make the playoffs.

It’s the same thing with college sports. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament now has 68 teams, and there is talk that it might go to 96 teams. The women’s tournament has 64 teams.

In some high school sports, every team, no matter what its record during the regular season, plays in the state tournament.

Many sports today seem almost like youth leagues, where every player gets a trophy. That’s okay for little kids, but I don’t think people who are older than 10 need to be getting trophies regardless of how they played.

One of the best things about sports is that there are definite winners and losers.

The best teams win more games and have better records. We should be able to recognize and reward the few teams that played the best during the season. The players who lost too many games just have to try harder and come back next year.

The long MLB season (162 games) does a good job of identifying the very best teams. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to expand the playoffs.

One famous sports event — the Olympics — has no plans to give away more prizes. There are gold, silver and bronze medals. The fourth-place finisher, no matter how close, gets nothing.

Maybe that is why anyone who wins an Olympic medal is a true champion.

Fred Bowen is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including the picture book “No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season.”

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