New playoff format hurts softball teams

By Joseph Staszewski

The PSAL’s expanded softball playoff format doesn’t help anyone.

The league traditionally allowed 32 teams each into postseason play in both its Class A and B divisions.

This year, PSAL is letting all 104 squads in their respective classes compete in the playoffs. Even Petrides from Staten Island, which is 0–16, is in as the No. 39 seed out of 40 in the ‘A,’ where the bottom 16 teams have a combined record 51-166. There are 16 teams in the ‘B,’ playoffs with two wins or less.

The top eight seeds in the ‘A’ have to sit around for two rounds and nine ‘B’ teams get first-round byes depending on how many teams there are in each borough.

And there is no uniformity. One Queens team gets a bye in the ‘B’ while four Brooklyn teams take free pass in the next round.

I wouldn’t exactly call that putting people on equal footing.

Listen, I get it. The idea is to let the kids play, even if it is for one more game. That, however, is not what high school sports are supposed to be about. Leave that to the CYO and middle school leagues if it has to happen. High school sports are a learning experience for kids as much as classes in chemistry and history.

There are winners and losers in life, as harsh as that may sound when talking about a group of teenagers. Sports are supposed to teach you about working as hard as you can to achieve a goal. For some teams, that means winning a city or a division title. For others it is making the playoffs. Doing so consistently or following a rough season with a playoff berth had been a badge of honor before and an accomplishment for many programs.

It showed the players’ progress as much as the teams’ improved records do. If this format continues, it will make the playoffs stop being something special and become a given. What should teams that are not at the top of their divisions shoot for now?

What good are you doing the teams at the top and bottom of the seeding? Another loss probably looms for the lower half, and even if the team wins, its second-round game could produce an ugly result. For the clubs at the top, how does waiting two rounds help them?

Softball is about repetition and playing regularly to stay sharp. The Catholic and private school playoffs are already in progress, so opportunities for scrimmages between those leagues and the PSAL are limited.

Also, stretching out the playoffs leaves you increasingly susceptible to rain wreaking havoc on the schedule. The title games are now a week later than last year.

While the idea of letting everyone play sounds great, it’s not something that should be practiced in this case. It helps no one, devalues the regular season and gives dozens of team nothing to strive for.

Keep the playoffs as a meaningful accomplishment instead of a given from Day One.

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