NEW YORK - Major League Baseball on Friday officially expanded its playoff format to 10 teams by adding a wild-card club to each league.
"I think the more, the merrier," said new Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "I think for the fans, the players, the energy at the end of the season, I don't mind. What would it be, a third of the teams? I think it'll be good."
The Red Sox and Atlanta Braves sure could have used this setup last year. They went through collapses in September that eventually cost them playoff spots on the final day of the season.
This change is the first to MLB's postseason format since wild cards were added for the 1995 season. The latest move creates a one-game, wild-card round in the American League and National League between the teams with the best records who aren't division winners.
"This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
Another change for the 2012 postseason is that the five-game division series will begin with a pair of home games for the lower seeds, followed by home games for the higher seed. After this year, it will return to the 2-2-1 format previously used. MLB said that with schedules already drawn for this season, the postseason had to be compressed to fit in the extra games - hence, fewer off days for travel. Starting this year, too, teams from the same division can meet in that best-of-five division series.
If the World Series goes to Game 7 this year, it would be played Nov. 1.
The additions mean 10 of the 30 MLB teams will get into the playoffs. That's still fewer than in North America's other major professional leagues - 12 of 32 make it in the NFL, and 16 of 30 advance in the NBA and NHL.
FROM MAUI TO THE MAJORS
Statistics for the Oakland Athletics' Kurt Suzuki:
FRIDAY: 0-2, K in exhibition season opener. Left after five innings for defensive replacement.
Seattle 8, Oakland 5
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Today's Games (HST)
Tampa Bay vs. Minnesota, 8:05 a.m.
N.Y. Yankees vs. Philadelphia, 8:05 a.m.
Pittsburgh vs. Toronto, 8:05 a.m.
Detroit vs. Atlanta, 8:05 a.m.
Washington vs. Houston, 8:05 a.m.
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Oakland vs. Seattle., 10:05 a.m.
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, 10:05 a.m.
Arizona (ss) vs. San Francisco, 10:05 a.m.
Arizona (ss) vs. Colorado, 10:10 a.m.