Major League Baseball's 2012 postseason will be altered for the first time since 1994, establishing a 10-team playoff that includes two additional Wild Card berths and an elimination game in each league.
MLB's official press release:
The 2012 Postseason will feature a 10-team format that includes two additional Wild Card Clubs and an elimination game in each League prior to the Division Series, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to the changes to the new Postseason format as a part of last years collective bargaining. The new Basic Agreement, announced on November 22nd, provided that MLB and the MLBPA would expand the Postseason no later than 2013; that a second Wild Card would be awarded in both the American League and the National League; and that a single Postseason game would be played between each Leagues two Wild Card Clubs, with each winner advancing to compete among the three division champions from each League in the Division Series. Following further discussions to address player concerns, the parties agreed that the new format would be used in 2012.
The change, which was endorsed by the Commissioners 14-member Special Committee for On-Field Matters, marks the first amendment to the Postseason since MLB adopted the six-division, eight-team Postseason structure in January of 1994. The first Postseason to be played under that format occurred in 1995.
Commissioner Selig said: I greatly appreciate the MLBPAs 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. 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.
Michael Weiner, the Executive Director of the MLBPA, said: The players are eager to begin playing under this new format in 2012 and they look forward to moving to full realignment in 2013. Our negotiating committee and the owners representatives worked hard to develop a schedule that should make for fairer competition and provide our fans with a very exciting season.
For the 2012 Postseason only, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds. This one-year change will eliminate a travel day prior to a decisive Game Five of the Division Series and was necessary because the 2012 regular season schedule was announced before the agreement on the new Postseason was reached. Next year, the Division Series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years. Details on the scheduling of the new elimination games between each Leagues Wild Cards will be announced in the near future.
Prior to 1994, the only changes to the Postseason system in Baseball history were in 1903 and from 1919-1921, when the sport had a nine-game World Series, and in 1969, with the advent of League Championship Series play before the World Series. (Prior to the inaugural World Series in 1903, Baseball experimented with Postseason competition as compact as a best-of-five system in 1884 and as elongated as a best-of-15 series in 1887.)