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The Zak Zone

October 12, 2011

Although it may not be getting much attention due to the amount of local sports we've had the chance to cover here at The Spirit lately, the Major League Baseball postseason is well underway, and we are less than one week from Game No. 1 of the World Series.

As a Pirates fan, I'm used to my baseball season ending somewhere around the beginning of August when the Buccos are statistically eliminated from the playoff hunt, but the cool October air always brings with it the excitement of my three favorite sports — baseball, football and hockey — taking place at the same time.

This year's playoffs, and the approaching World Series, have a different feel, though.

The Phillies' super-human pitching staff touted to return World Series glory to the City of Brotherly Love? Eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals.

And on the other side of the National League bracket, the Milwaukee Brewers, the NL Central divisional champion and foe of the Cards, are looking to make their first World Series since 1982.

And to make it more interesting, the Brew Crew has never won the October Classic.

The defending champion San Francisco Giants? They didn't even make the playoffs this year.

On the American League side, the Rangers and Tigers — two perennially good teams — are battling for a spot in the World Series, but names like Rodriguez and Jeter are mysteriously absent as the Yankees were eliminated in the A.L. Divisional Series.

And just as the Giants missed out on the playoffs, the Boston Red Sox took an early sabbatical this season after losing a huge lead in the wild card race late in the season.

Personally, I think this is good for baseball, and I applaud MLB for keeping the playoff format at four teams from each league.

I love all the other sports, but their playoff systems just don't do it for me.

In football, six teams make it from each conference, giving byes to the two teams with the best records.

Now, for a team struggling with health issues or fatigue, this is a marked advantage, but in the long run, the majority of the teams granted the bye probably just end up getting a little rustier than they'd like.

In the four-team per league format, no team sits idle. And while having two weeks to game plan for a particular team may be another slight advantage, in the playoffs, the team's opponent isn't determined until a week before they play anyhow.

And as much as I love the NHL, it seems like every team gets into their playoffs.

The value of a regular season record means little in the NHL, as the top eight teams in each conference make it in.

That makes 16 teams — half the league — in the playoffs, severe overkill in my opinion.

Ultimately, they're making the regular season meaningless and reducing winning a championship to being hot at the right time (which I should add makes winning one no less spectacular).

I suppose the only exception for me when it comes to large playoffs is college basketball's March Madness, but even then, for as much as I get excited for upsets on opening weekend, my excitement dwindles until the Final Four.

College football, on the other hand, has too few teams in its playoff.

I have no problem with using the BCS standings to select the teams that play for the title, but limiting it to two teams leaves too many what-ifs in the No. 3 and 4 spots.

Baseball makes up for their good decision making when it comes to the playoff system with a ridiculously long regular season that can bore even the biggest fans, but when it comes time for the playoffs, I believe they get it right.

More teams in the playoffs would mean more games and more money for the teams involved, and therefore for the league, but I believe fewer teams makes more exciting playoffs with better story lines and is more fair to the fans.

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