As we approach MLB's 2011 postseason, currently scheduled to begin on Friday with two American League division series games, there is a report from Joel Sherman in the New York Post that negotiators hammering out details of the new player/owner CBA that would take effect after this season have "all but agreed" to add two playoff teams and a sudden-death game:
One person involved in the talks described that scenario as a done deal and another hedged a little by saying it is likely to play out that way, but nothing will be finalized until an entire CBA is inked.
Both sources said because there would be just a one-game playoff added, the second wild-card team could be installed as early as next year, but the new system will go into effect no later than 2013.
There have been numerous scenarios discussed surrounding having an extra wild-card team in each league; ideas have included a three-game series or a single-game playoff. The single-game playoff idea appears to be winning, because:
The TV networks generally have been uninterested in the other wild-card option -- a best-of-three series -- instead wanting the drama and ratings potential of a sudden-death game. The players also strongly favored the one-game playoff, mainly because they did not want the division winners to have to wait around an additional three-to-five days without playing while a wild-card round is contested.
This kind of scenario would mean that it would be far more important to win your division than make it as a wild card, and the article goes on to say that this may increase the impetus for realignment into two 15-team leagues; such a setup would mean that teams would play roughly equivalent schedules. That's considered more "fair" by many than the current setup.
Nothing is set in stone right now and this is not likely to be made final until the CBA is finalized, and that might not be until December. But if it does happen, 2011 could be the last year under the current playoff setup.