MLB Adds Second Wild Card: One Team from Each Division That Has a Chance to Win
For the first time since 1995, the Major League Baseball postseason is getting a makeover. Instead of the eight teams—three division winners and a Wild Card per league—there will now be two Wild Cards per league. The two Wild Cards will compete in a playoff.
For some teams, this is welcome news, especially those who have missed the postseason by one game. It's a chance to prove that they belong in a do-or-die series, a dogfight between two Wild Cards.
In each division, there is one team that tries to prove that it is worthy of postseason contention. This slideshow will examine each division and pick a team that will most likely be jumping for joy with the news.
With the exception of the Mets, the NL East is practically up for grabs. Every team (but the Mets) made splash moves that will bolster their postseason hopes.
One of those teams that should be really happy is the Nationals. The offseason additions of Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and the potential promotion of Bryce Harper could potentially spell success for this team, which has the talent but has struggled to get over the hump since their days in Montreal.
Not only that but with Ryan Zimmerman locked up for the next seven years and a World Series manager in Davey Johnson, this team seems to have all the puzzle pieces for a postseason run.
A month ago, I would have probably said that the Brewers were set to kiss their postseason hopes goodbye. Prince Fielder had left for Detroit, Ryan Braun's situation looked bleak—it seemed that the team would crumble.
Then Braun got vindicated, and the Brewers had some hope. In addition, the Brewers added the bat of Aramis Ramirez to help ease the loss of Fielder. They brought in another slap hitter named Norichika Aoki and solidified their bullpen with the addition of Jose Veras and retention of Francisco Rodriguez.
The Brew Crew has a solid team, but they aren't the team of last year, so they could potentially lose some ground on the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Still, what they do have will potentially give them enough wins to qualify for the final Wild Card spot.
San Francisco Giants
Give the Giants a mulligan for last year.
Losing players one by one to injury most certainly wouldn't help anyone's chances of making the postseason, but you do have to give the team credit for hanging in there throughout the season.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks most likely the new kings of the NL West, it's highly likely that the Giants would have to get either the first or second Wild Card in order to make the postseason.
This is especially true considering the likelihood that a team from the NL East gets the first Wild Card.
Nonetheless, the team does have the nucleus to make a postseason run; Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain anchor the rotation, Brian Wilson closing and Buster Posey leading an offensive charge.
Look for the Giants to make a run for it this year.
Boston Red Sox
The AL East has gotten tougher ever since the Tampa Bay Rays made their identity change in 2008. Since their rebranding, it's been the Boston Red Sox who have gotten the shaft repeatedly.
Even with the additions of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and John Lackey, the team has managed to fall flat for the past two seasons.
Despite Bobby Valentine's assurances that this year won't be like last year, it's almost certain that in order for the Sox to make the playoffs, it will have to be the Wild Card way.
With either the Yankees or the Rays in the way for the foreseeable future, it doesn't matter if the team abstains from the demons that caused their 2011 demise, they may have to rely on that Wild Card cushion.
The Cleveland Indians are another team that has the core to make it; what they don't have is the discipline to win the division.
In addition, with the Detroit Tigers having all but locked up their spot in the 2012 playoffs with their rotation and Prince Fielder, it's looking increasingly bleak for the Indians to even have a shot at first place.
There are plenty of quality players on this team—with Asdrubal Cabrera having developed into a superstar, Lonnie Chisenhall having developed into a reliable hitter and the rotation being fully stabilized with Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Slowey.
The only concerns for the Tribe are Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner, both of whom haven't been able to play to their younger form. In addition, the Indians were dealt a major blow when closer Chris Perez was injured.
Nonetheless, if the Tribe can avoid the June swoon they had last year, they might have a shot at either the second or possibly the first Wild Card spot.
The mantra for all AL West teams this year should be "Beware the Angels." With Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson both locked up, everyone, including the two-time AL champion Texas Rangers, should be concerned.
This doesn't mean that the Rangers should call 2012 a lost season already, they do have the team; what they don't have is the ace that led them into the World Series.
Not to worry. Yu Darvish is on this team, fresh off of a fantastic season in Nippon Baseball, and former closer Neftali Feliz is also a part of the rotation.
Josh Hamilton is back to full strength after missing a chunk of last year due to a broken arm, and Michael Young is back in the fold after a year plagued by trade demands.
The team is almost the same as last year, but they won't have as great of a chance to win the AL West with the Angels leading the way. Look for them to get one of the Wild Card spots.