Major League Baseball, as expected, is adding a pair of Wild Cards teams, expanding its postseason field to 10 squads.
Starting with the 2012 season, a pair of Wild Card squads in the American and National Leagues will battle in a single-elimination contest. While the Wild Card games are expected to be played on Oct. 5, it's unclear what network will televise the action. Sources familiar with the situation indicate the games constitute a new playoff round and there have been some discussions among MLB and services interested in those rights.
MLB said no decision has been made about a prospective telecast partner for the Wild Card contests.
Under the current contract with MLB, TBS, which televises the four Division Series, as well as one of the League Championship Series -- alternating by league each year with Fox, which also holds World Series rights -- has aired tie-breaking regular-season games.
Turner officials could not immediately be reached for comment late Friday afternoon.
Fox Sports issued the following statement: "We have a great, longstanding relationship with MLB, and if these playoffs game become available, we'd be very interested in exploring the possibility of presenting them on a Fox outlet."
The agreement between MLB and its Players Association, finalized on Friday March 2, means the three division winners in each league will await the survivor of a one-game playoff between the Wild Card teams. Those results will serve to determine the Division Series field of four teams in both the senior and junior circuits..
MLB's 2012 regular season ends on Wednesday Oct. 3, leaving just a two-day window -- weather permitting -- before the scheduled start of the Division Series round on Saturday, Oct. 6. In between, MLB will have to accommodate any season-ending tiebreakers to decide division titles, the Wild Card berths and Wild Card elimination games.
Given that the new Wild Card games have been added long after the 2012 regular season was established, the 2012 postseason will see the five-game Division Series beginning with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for the higher seeds. This one-year change will eliminate a travel day prior to a potential Game 5 of a Division Series. In 2013, the Division Series will return to the more familiar 2-2-1 format, which was introduced in 1995.
MLB says the additional Wild Cards will place a premium on claiming the division flag. Those winners will gain at least two days of rest before the start of the Division Series, while the Wild Card teams will possibly have to use their best pitchers to win an elimination game.
"I greatly appreciate the MLBPA's cooperation in putting the new postseason format in place this year. The enthusiasm for the 10-team structure among our clubs, fans and partners has been overwhelming," said MLB commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. "This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year, all while maintaining the most exclusive postseason in professional sports."
The smarter way to stay on top of the multichannel video marketplace. Sign up below.
Thank you for signing up to Multichannel News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.