The Catholic baseball playoffs need a new format.
The current Class AA structure is a headache to explain, schedule and play through. It involves all 17 teams, a qualifying round, a six-team seeding round and a best-of-three series round all to get into an eight-team, double-elimination tournament. As many as 36 games can be played in a span of three weeks.
I used to enjoy this format, but it has lost a lot of its luster, with many of the games being playing at homes fields and random neutral sites. Last Saturday, two games were at Iona Prep in New Rochelle and the other at St. Joseph by the Sea on the tip of Staten Island. Talk about two very different places.
The traditional triple-headers at Fordham University and St. John’s University that made the tournament cohesive are no longer possible regularly. The schools are renting their fields out to other entities.
Also, why do teams like winless St. Edmund, two-win Cardinal Spellman and three-win St. Raymond not get a chance to qualify for and play in a post season they can compete in? How do we fix this?
Here is my solution:
Only teams with .500 records make the newly named Class AAA playoffs and are ranked like they are now. Traditionally, 12 or 13 teams hit that mark. That last team into the 17-team field this year was Mount St. Michael at 7–12. If there are 13 teams then the 12 and 13 seeds play a play-in game for the last spot.
The next eight teams play in a new Class AA double-elimination tournament, creating a three-tier system much like the Catholic football league. The last two to three teams do not qualify for the playoffs.
The top four teams in the Class AAA tournament get a bye into the quarterfinals. The remaining four play single-elimination first-round games. The four winners then move into an eight-team, double-elimination tournament just like the current format. The opening round of that will be scheduled so that pitchers who threw in the first round can go with their team facing elimination if need be.
This format shortens the tournament to a maximum of 20 games that can be played in two weeks. With fewer games, there are fewer days to try to get scheduled at St. John’s or Fordham, giving a better chance to get games there.
There is also less of a chance of games running into proms, graduation and graduation masses. In addition, the shorter format could make it possible for schools to play for a Catholic championship, like there is in all the other of the league’s sports. Most of all, the young arms we are trying to protect will throw fewer pitches.
The Class AA postseason could be completed in a similar time frame and give teams something realistic to play for in May and June.
The traditionalists will never go for this, but this updated format makes too much sense — for time, raising the importance of the regular season, competitive balance and the health of the players — not to consider it.