Where were we -- at baseball mid-season or the start of second?
A decision is expected today on whether to pick up right where the major league baseball season left off before the strike, or, in a sense, to begin anew.
The latter option, advocated by a majority of owners, calls for a split season in which games already played would constitute one pennant race, those games remaining another. Though this scheme would approximate a format used at the minor league level, adopting it in the majors -- even under the present circumstances -- seems ill-advised.
The idea, of course, is to generate fan interest by artificially placing everybody back at Square 1. Economically this might make some sense, but is the long-term credibility baseball might lose worth the risk?
The most obvious flaw in the current split- season proposal is merely its post-facto nature. Team strategies and performances might have been quite different back in late May and early June if everyone had known they were entering the stretch drive of Season 1. At the point the walkout began, no division leader held more than a 1 1/2-game lead. So imagine how frustrated teams trailing the Yankees, A's, Phillies, and dodgers will feel if these clubs are now assured postseason berths.
By the same token, the aforementioned franchises might be equally frustrated if they win both parts of the season, but then have to play the best second-place finisher to make the playoffs, a definite possibility. Furthermore , it's not inconceivable that a division's best overall team would be left out of the post- season altogether.
One can see, then, that tinkering with a tried-and-true formula has some rather unappealing quirks. Another of these would be the need for preliminary playoffs to establish divisional champions, who would then vie for the American and National League titles. The World Series falls late enough on the calendar as it is, without the additional delay and confusion prelims would dictate.
Baseball's format was watered down somewhat with the advent of four divisions and league playoffs in 1969. Let's just hope the current situation doesn't tempt o wners to further dilute it.