Rob Manfred: ‘Lack Of Balance Across Divisions’

A lot of people are unhappy in Pittsburgh today.

Their beloved Pirates won 98 games this season – the second-most in all of baseball – and all they got for it was the honor of hosting a one-game playoff against a pitcher who has had one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the game.

The Pirates lost to Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, 4-0, on Wednesday. Just like that, their season is over.

What do you say to the upset masses in Pittsburgh?

“I actually believe that we have the appropriate balance between what happens with the Wild Cards and what happens with respect to the division winners,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Think about the alternatives, right? Once you’ve had the second Wild Card – if you, for example, went to a two-out-of-three playoff, you’d still have to keep Monday to either complete the season or to tiebreak. The most you could do is play Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get a three-game series out of the way. That could involve travel from the West Coast to the East Coast without an off day. You probably would have to give at least Friday as an off day. So now you have a division winner who has done what everybody’s tying to do – they’ve gone out and won their division – and they’re sitting there from Sunday until the following Saturday without having played. And it really disadvantages that division-winning team. Plus, if you think about it from the Wild Card team’s perspective, if they went through all that, your No. 4 guy would be going against the other team’s No. 1. You just run out of time at some point.”

But what about reseeding the playoffs? After all, the Pirates won 98 games and the Cubs won 97. Why not make the Dodgers (92 wins) and Mets (90) play each other in the Wild Card?

“Look, I think this is a little tougher question – and trust me, I’ve been answering all these questions all week long,” Manfred said. “I would say this: We have an unbalanced schedule in three divisions. When you have divisional play, you have to make winning your division matter, okay? And, I think you have to remember when you have an unbalanced schedule like we have, there is not pure comparability across divisions because you don’t necessarily play all these people. So the fact that I win my division with 91 wins and you come in second in a different division with 91 (wins), you could have a fair debate as to who should be seeded where. We’re committed to divisional play. It’s kind of the bedrock of what we’re doing. So yeah, I think it’s really important that we make divisional play matter.”

In other news, Gottlieb asked Manfred for his reaction to FOX hiring Pete Rose as an in-studio commentator. It’s kind of odd to have a guy who is ineligible for the Hall of Fame getting paid to analyze baseball, no?

Well, maybe not.

“I really didn’t have an objection to that,” Manfred said. “Pete’s a very knowledgeable baseball person. If you spend four or five days in Cincinnati – like I did at the All-Star Game – you understand that he’s a very popular individual in certain parts of the country. The ban that’s in place, I think of it as functional, and let me tell you what I mean by that. Pete is on the permanently ineligible list in baseball because Commissioner (Bart) Giamatti was of the view that him working in the game in a way that could affect in any way the play of the game on the field was inappropriate from an integrity perspective. Those sorts of concerns, which underlie the ban from baseball, really don’t apply to someone who is a commentator on baseball games. So I kind of came to the view that, like everyone else, he ought be allowed the opportunity to earn a living.”

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