MILWAUKEE -- The long-talked-about expansion of Major League Baseball's playoffs is in the works and could be incorporated as soon as this coming season, Commissioner Bud Selig announced after the conclusion of Thursday's final quarterly joint Owners Meeting of the year.
The new format will expand the Wild Card to a pair of additional teams, one each in the American and National Leagues.The two Wild Card teams will meet in a one-game playoff prior to the three-tiered postseason, which will remain the same, Selig said.
"You don't do things for only one year. You do things for a long period of time," Selig said. "We believe after a lot of study and a lot of thought that the addition of two Wild Cards is really going to help us in the long run. One thing you learn is that baseball is a metaphor for life and nothing's perfect. But I think people are excited about it. They should be."
The expanded playoffs are linked to the sale of the Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane and their move from the NL to the AL, effective for the 2013 season. The Commissioner's Office and the MLB Players Association collaborated on those developments during the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.
Selig announced all three after Thursday's meeting, at which the sale of the Astros was unanimously approved. The Astros' shift from the NL Central to the AL West will give each league 15 teams, with five clubs in all six divisions.
"The 15-15 [split of teams] will take place in 2013, of course," Selig said. "The Wild Card situation, we're still working on. We hope to have it for next year, but we have some judgments to make on that point."
MLB has been studying how to expand the playoffs for at least two years, and it became a hot topic of discussion in Selig's 14-person special committee that has been studying on-field improvements of the sport. The matter had to be collectively bargained because it involves scheduling, and the union made it clear that any postseason expansion would be tied to moving a team from the six-team NL Central to the four-team AL West to create better competitive balance.
Adding another Wild Card addresses a common refrain within the industry that teams dominating over 162 games should be rewarded more and teams clinching a berth at season's end should have a greater obstacle. Many players agree with David Wright, who said last week of the Cardinals' title: "Unbelievable story. It just shows that you can get hot at the right time."
The Wild Card format and the creation of three divisions in each league were adopted in 1994 amid much criticism. From 1969 to that point, there had been two divisions in each league and a League Championship Series between the first-place teams as a prelude to the World Series. Prior to 1969, only the pennant winners in each league met in the World Series.
The new format means that 10 of the 30 teams will make the postseason, a number Selig has said is not objectionable. The one-game Wild Card playoff seemed easier to fit into the schedule than a best-of-three first-round series.
"We haven't come to a final decision, but if I had to guess today, it would be the one game," Selig said. "Much to my surprise, baseball people -- my 14-man committee included -- only wanted one game. The only guy who had some concerns about it was me. But they liked the one game, and it will be dramatic."