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A straw in the wind -- more playoffs to lure the baseball fan?

Baseball's competitive structure was once so simple. Up until 11 years ago, a team either played in the American or National League. Then in 1969, each league was divided into an East and West Division. Before too much longer, predicts Leonard Koppett in the Sporting News, the majors will probably go to three-division leagues.

Koppetths forecast is not based on any pending expansion, since none is currently under consideration. Going to three divisions, he explains, would mainly be a matter of dollars and cents. More geographically confined divisions would simplify travel and thereby increase fuel efficiency. The additional divisions would also draw two, and possibly four, more teams into the post-season playoffs -- the two division winners plus a pair of wild card qualifiers. This in turn, could translate into greater spectator interest and extra TV revenues.

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Of course, there's always the danger of diluting the playoffs by expanding them too much. The National Hockey League, which includes 16 of 21 teams in its playoff format, is certainly guilty of this.

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