When it comes to the playoffs, there are some rules that continue to drive fans nuts. Seeing the Carolina Panthers host a home playoff game despite their losing record is just one of the many playoff rules that need to be changed. Each sport has its share of aggravating rules that leave fans wondering why they exist. Leagues can be very hesitant to stray from tradition, even if the tradition doesn't make sense.
Major League Baseball is a game of consistency and mini-series throughout the season, but the wild card playoffs consist of just one game. Does that really prove that the better team wins or does it just come down to who has the better starting pitcher? The Stanley Cup playoffs have the potential of having four teams in the same division playing each other in the first round. Don't they battle each other enough during the regular season? The NBA playoffs always seem to leave a couple of really good teams out in the West and include one or two teams with losing records in the East. Since seeding doesn't depend on divisions and includes 16 teams, it seems unfair that teams in the stronger conference get punished for having a good season.
Many of these rules are traditional and require pulling a fair amount of teeth to change. Most of the time, the rules are not questioned and fans simply accept them, looking forward to the next season if their team is treated unfairly. The following 10 rules are perfect examples of rules that might be unfair, make little sense or can be downright idiotic. It might be hard to eliminate some of them, but they are certainly worth taking a closer look at.
10 MLB World Series Designated Hitter Rules
Someday the designated hitter is probably going to be used in both leagues. Up to this point, the American League has been at a disadvantage as its pitchers go through an entire season without ever swinging a bat and then are asked to do so in the World Series. There are some National League starting pitchers who are capable of taking advantage of their chances at the plate. Even a pitcher who can bunt or sacrifice a runner over to second base can make a big difference in a close game. In the American League, pitchers never get the opportunity to practice these tasks.
9 NHL and NBA 16-Team Playoffs
It is hard enough to stomach NFL teams with losing records getting into the playoffs, but this routinely happens in the NBA and NHL. Is it really worth extending the playoffs to include teams that shouldn't be in the playoffs just to create extra revenue? It starts to make the season less important when over half of the teams get in the playoffs and rewards teams for having less than spectacular or meaningful seasons. About the only positive outcome that usually occurs is that fans of the undeserving team will at least get to see their team get beaten by one of the best teams in the league.
8 MLB Wild Card Winner Seeding
The MLB playoffs now include a one game wild card playoff that automatically pits the winner up against the divisional winner with the best record. In a sport where teams play 162 games, it is pretty safe to say that a wild card winner that has a much better record than a divisional winner must have had a better and more consistent season. Under the current structure, there is always the likelihood that two teams with the best records in the league can play each other in the divisional playoffs.
7 MLB All-Star Game Winner and Home Field Advantage
In MLB, the league that wins the All-Star game gets home field advantage in the World Series. This means that a team can finish with over 100 wins and demolish people in the playoffs, but still concede home field advantage to a team with a worse record simply because a bunch of stars who were selected to put on a show for fans ended up losing the actual game. This just seems akin to having a coin flip decide this important advantage and seems just as arbitrary.
6 MLB One Game Wild Card Playoff
Baseball is a great game of consistency that takes 162 games to determine how consistent its teams can be. In a sport that has two, three and four game sets throughout the year, it is hard to figure out how a one game wild card playoff can determine the better of two teams. A starting pitcher on one team could be the best pitcher in the league, but what about the second and third starters? After all, anything can happen in just one game.
5 NHL Division-Centric Playoff Format
The NHL has several ways to screw the stronger divisions. The playoff format not only has the conference issues like the NBA where each conference gets eight teams, but there are more points of contention in the seeding process. The top three teams in each division make it to the playoffs, while there are two wild cards in each conference. The divisional winners will play the wild cards, but the second and third place teams in each division will play each other. This presents a problem for teams in strong divisions who could end up with the second and third best records in the league.
4 NFL Playoff Format
The NFL playoff format has come under fire for having teams with losing records back into the playoffs while leaving out deserving teams with winning records at the same time. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West Division Title with a 7-9 record and went on to qualify for the playoffs as the divisional winner. The Seahawks were at least 6-6 against teams in the NFC. However, both the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished their seasons with 10-6 records and 8-4 records inside the conference, but failed to make the playoffs.
3 NBA Playoff Seedings by Conference
The NBA Playoffs have been a joke for quite some time. While teams with strong winning records continually fail to make the Western Conference playoffs, the Eastern Conference has had spots in the postseason for teams with losing records. Even if 16 teams have to make the playoffs, it seems unfair that teams in the Western Conference that have solid seasons have to sit and watch the playoffs at home while teams in the Eastern Conference that don't measure up end up getting rewarded with extended seasons.
2 NCAA 4-Team Football Playoff
The BCS rankings and all the other polls and rankings have been somewhat toned down from past seasons, but the current format is proof that four teams is simply not enough. The difficulty with football and its demands on the body make it hard to have a playoff bracket as large as the magnificent bracket that works so well for basketball, but a four team playoff is still going to leave one or two worthy teams out. Eight teams would be ideal if the power conferences could eliminate conference championship games in an effort to reduce the overall number of games. Perhaps the NCAA could implement six teams, with the top two earning a bye.
1 NFL First Round Playoff Bracket
The NFL regular season is played each year with the primary goal of reaching the playoffs. For teams in weaker divisions, it often means that winning the division is the only way of making it into the postseason. When a division winner qualifies for the playoffs without a winning record, it is ludicrous to give that team the added bonus of hosting a first-round playoff game. Why not have the wild card team with a better record host that game?
When a team wins a weak division, it inevitably means that it played six games right off the bat against even weaker teams with losing records. If a division winner qualifies for the playoffs with a losing record, it could have six wins out of seven or eight that were against teams in its lackluster division. That team could hypothetically go 0-10 against the rest of the league and still host a playoff game according to the current rules. There is no reason that a Wild Card team with a 11-5 record, that came in second place in their division to a team that was 12-4 or better, should have to travel to that weaker team's home field.
Just this year, the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals had to travel to play the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, despite playing in the rugged NFC West. Other examples include the 2010 New Orleans Saints, who were 11-5, but had to travel to Seattle to play the 7-9 Seahawks. The 2008 Indianapolis Colts were a 12-4 wild card team, yet had to travel to San Diego to take on the 8-8 Chargers.
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