Baseball owners split on playoffs New tier's format in question

June 18, 1993|By Ross Newhan | Ross Newhan,Los Angeles Times

DENVER -- Surprise. Baseball's often divided major-league owners failed yesterday to reach agreement on the format for a new playoff round.

They voted, 26-2, with the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers opposing the break with tradition, to approve the new playoff round for 1994, but they did not reach a consensus on who the participants will be, which teams will play which teams in the five-game series or how many games will be played in each park.

John Harrington, president of the Boston Red Sox and chairman of the format committee, said the team with the next-best record after the division champions will qualify in each league, but it is still to be determined whether:

* The other division's second-place finisher or a third-place finisher with a better record, regardless of division, will qualify in each league.

* The division champions will play teams from their own divisions or the other divisions; a straw vote on the two concepts came up 14-14.

* The division champions will get three or four of the five games in their own parks.

"The committee is divided and the full ownership is divided because there is nothing quantitative to guide us," Harrington said of the issues still to be resolved.

He said there would be more talks among the owners, leading to a vote in September, and that the players' union, which must approve the new round, will be brought into the discussions.

The debate involves a system that could be in place for only one year -- or not at all, if the 1994 season is erased by a work stoppage over a new bargaining agreement.

Optimistically, Harrington said, a resolution of the labor agreement would include a new playoff formula for 1995, based on three-division realignment.

Interleague play and expansion to 15 teams in each league may not happen in 1995, but that, too, is on the horizon, with the next step being expansion to 32 teams.

Owner Jerry McMorris of the Colorado Rockies said the solutions to scheduling and playoff complexities rest in expansion.

"We need to have another team in each league, which would give us three five-team divisions, and then expand to eight divisions with four teams each," he said. "It's inevitable, as is interleague play. What we are doing now are just steps along the way."

Of the Rangers' decision to oppose this first step, the added playoff round, George W. Bush, the managing partner, said, "I don't like the thought of a team going through a 162-game season, finishing second and then having the chance to win a three-of-five playoff."

Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and chairman of the governing executive council, said that he, too, is a traditionalist but that baseball can't keep "living in a vacuum," that times have changed and that baseball has to change.

The new playoff round, he said, will stimulate fan interest -- and revenue -- during the final weeks of the season.

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