You've seen the commercials. The social media posts. Michael Imperioli. The bright lights and the even brighter courts. The NBA is trying out the Bill Simmons fever dream of an in-season tournament. If you somehow are not aware, the full details can be found here but I'll go through the basics. Teams are randomly drawn into six groups of five based on last season's records, and teams will play a "group play" game against each of the other four teams. The six group winners and two wild card teams advance to the quarterfinals, and from there, play a single-elimination tournament culminating in a final played in the alluring Las Vegas. Group play, quarterfinal, and semifinal games will all double as being part of a team's regular season games (eliminated teams will play each other during the quarterfinals and semifinals so everyone is playing their full 82 game schedule. The championship game is an extra game I guess. This is all very new and a little confusing but it mostly makes sense.) The prize? Money. That's it. Maybe that's enough, maybe they will tweak it if this becomes an annual thing, but that's all we have for now. So this, of course, has me thinking what if MLB tried this?
Some of you may remember I wrote about a possible in-season tournament a few years ago, with my proposal for an "FA Cup" style tournament including not only all of the major league teams, but the minor league affiliates as well. While I personally think that would be more fun to see play out, it has some draw backs. MLB teams might not want to risk the shame of losing to minor league teams, scheduling logistics could be a nightmare, and extra games adding to the wear and tear of a long season would be a tough sell. So when I saw that the NBA's format included these game doubling as regular season games, well heck, maybe this could work in MLB.
Since MLB also has 30 teams, we can have six groups of five. Each group will have a team that finished first, second, third, fourth, and fifth in their division the previous year to make it somewhat balanced, and I decided to include interleague play into the groups as well so each team avoids any divisional opponents. Every team plays each other at some point in the season anyways, so maybe this adds some spice to these games. As an example, here are the groups that I randomly selected:
Teams play a three game series against each of their group mates, two at home and two on the road. We can schedule this right before the All Star break (some non-tournament games will have to be mixed in since we have an odd number of teams in each group. Oh well.) Just like the NBA, the six group winners and two wild cards will advance to the quarterfinals. However, only the group play games will count as part of the regular season since the "knock out" rounds are single-elimination and scheduling a bunch of single games on the fly is giving me anxiety. The teams that make the final will play three extra games. It's fine, whatever. The final can be played at the All Star game's site, which will add to the excitement around that time when there is usually not much going on in the sports world. Wanna know what they're playing for? In addition to money for each of the players, the winning team will get an extra first round draft pick and a guaranteed spot in the postseason. Maybe that's too much, but let's have some fun! Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy! Baseball isn't meant to be played in such a short sample, but that's what could make this captivating to watch. Any team can get hot and win!
So what do you think? Good idea, bad idea, or terrible idea?