Joe Maddon has some ideas — naturally — for how the details should be worked out, but he and other Rays officials couldn't be more pleased that MLB is heading, as commissioner Bud Selig confirmed last week, toward adding two wild-card teams to the playoff field starting next season.
"Of course it will be good for us," Maddon said. "This whole division keeps getting better on an annual basis. To have another opportunity to make the playoffs truly is absolutely going to be a good thing."
The planned change will expand the playoff field to 10, still the smallest percentage of the four major pro sports, creating more interest in more markets for more of the season.
Also, more hope.
"For smaller market teams, this is what we want: an expanded playoff situation," said third baseman Evan Longoria, the Rays' player rep. "Where you're not going into the season going, you know New York and Boston and everybody else are going to be in the playoffs, and where are we going to pan out?
"Are we going to have to have another incredible year and surprise the world, or are we going to be able to have the kind of year that we had in 2009 where you get 85 wins (84 actually) and you're not even close to making the playoffs? But this is going to give teams that have that year to play September in a playoff hunt and get a city excited."
Not all the Rays are in favor, though. Veteran Johnny Damon said the postseason field would be too diluted: "I feel like the better teams should make the playoffs."
The biggest issues with the plan are deciding on a format (one game or two-out-of-three format) and working it into an already too long schedule.
That's where Maddon's ideas, some he has already shared with new MLB VP Joe Torre, come in: Go with the two-out-of-three format. Strip out scheduled off days to make it more a test of the full roster than a couple of hot starters. Put more of a premium on winning the division by making it tougher on the wild cards. Create room in the schedule by planning several doubleheaders (true, not split) and allow for roster additions (three players) on those days.