ORLANDO, Fla. – Baseball management is more likely to consider expanded playoffs for 2012 than for next year.
After discussing upcoming collective bargaining Tuesday with major league general managers, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said adding wild-card teams for 2011 would be “a difficult trick to pull off” because it would have to be a modification of the current labor contract, which runs through next season.
Manfred said the proposal would have to be made by the owners’ labor policy committee, then endorsed by owners and agreed to by the players’ association.
“In the middle of a contract, we can’t act unilaterally,” said Manfred, baseball’s chief labor negotiator.
Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry favors additional wild cards. He credited commissioner Bud Selig with pushing through the initial wild-card playoffs, which began in 1995.
“It turns out the commissioner was right on,” he said.
Hendry thinks a majority of GMs would back more playoffs.
“It’s all about postseason baseball. That’s what fans like,” Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said.
Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said the sentiment of the group isn’t that clear cut.
“There was definitely a split on the topic when it came up. It’s not per se that everybody’s for it,” he said.
GMs were to discuss bargaining some more today, and owners gather Thursday for the final day of meetings.
Last month, union head Michael Weiner said players were open to considering additional playoffs as part of collective bargaining, and Selig said the concept intrigued him. Baseball would have to gauge the interest of its television partners before deciding whether to add more postseason games.
Baseball doubled its playoff teams to four in 1969 and again to eight for 1995, a year later than intended because of a players’ strike. If there were additional wild-card teams, baseball would have to decide the length of the new round.
“I think best-of-1 would be a little short, but I don’t see how you go more than best-of-3 given the need for travel and all the other playoffs that have to take place,” New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “But somebody may be able to figure it out on a best-of-5 basis.”
Management also seems intent on proposing a slotting system for amateur draft picks to eliminate individual negotiations.
“There are reasons why major league players should want a slotting system, because what’s not spent in the draft arguably would be spent on major league players,” Alderson said.
While the NFL, NBA and NHL are facing potentially acrimonious labor negotiations, MLB remains confident it can reach another deal without strife.
“Of all the sports, I’d say we are the least likely to experience a work stoppage,” Alderson said.