MLB Adds Second Wild Card: 5 Reasons It Enhances Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry
It was reported today by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that Major League Baseball will officially adopt a 10-team playoff system tomorrow, when an announcement is scheduled.
In a move that has been talked about for several months now, MLB has now shown that it is willing to make an attempt at giving more teams a shot at being competitive.
The rivalry between the two teams is arguably the best in sports (feel free to have at it in the comments section), and expanding the playoff format will most certainly lead to an enhancement in the rivalry.
This season, the Red Sox will be playing with a vengeance, considering the colossal collapse the team went through over the season's final weeks (one has to wonder what could have been if the new format were in place last season).
The Yankees, on the other hand, will look to improve upon last season's league-leading 97 wins and maintain their high expectations.
The new format will definitely enhance the rivalry in the near future, as well as in the long run.
Teams Can't Settle for the Wild Card
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With the new format, no longer can teams just play for a Wild Card spot, as even Brian Cashman admitted that the Yankees did in 2010.
Resting players and getting healthy will no longer be a smart option, as clubs won't be assured a playoff spot if they are a Wild Card team.
The new format calls for a one-game playoff between both Wild Cards, with the winner advancing and heading on to face the No. 1-seeded team (assuming they aren't in the same division).
A strong division like the AL East may have a second place team finish at 92-70, good enough for second or third in the league. That team would be the first seeded Wild Card. The next Wild Card team may own a record of just 85-77.
Clearly, the 92-win team is much better; however, in a one-game playoff, the less talented 85-win team could defeat the better team and advance into the playoffs. Call it good or bad, but winning a Wild Card spot is no longer a safe bet for teams.
In the case of the Yankees and Red Sox, the teams will have to fight hard each and every day during the season, as both teams are very competitive and deserving of playoff spots.
Only one team can be given a guaranteed spot, though, and that's incentive enough to work harder than ever before.
Winning the Division Is Vital
As I mentioned in the previous slide, no longer is winning the Wild Card good enough for teams.
If you want a guaranteed spot, you have to win your division.
Putting more emphasis on winning the division is great for the game. It makes the division crown that much more valuable, and it will also give the rest of the league a very clear distinction between the top-tier and lower-level playoff teams.
In recent years, the Yankees have been the most dominant team in the division. Just once since 1995 have the Yankees missed the playoffs (2008), and only twice were they the Wild Card team (1995 and 2010).
Having been the most dominant team in the AL East over the better part of the past two decades, the Yankees should be pretty confident in their ability to take the division crown.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, will have a new fire lit inside of them to overtake the evil empire. That will translate to some exciting times during the summer months for baseball fans.
More Competitive in Free Agency
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The last time these two teams got into a bidding war, the Yankees swooped in at the last minute to pry Mark Teixeira away from the Sox.
Now that the Wild Card is not a definite, we may see bidding wars like that one a bit more often.
Next offseason, the Yankees and Red Sox could both be courting similar free agents. Both teams will be seeking starting pitching, and there are plenty of high-profile free agents available following the season.
Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Brandon McCarthy and Anibal Sanchez headline the list, and there's no doubt that both teams will be interested.
At the end of the day, it's guaranteed that one team will be left disappointed.
With Wild Cards now becoming indefinite, every win counts. Grabbing that high-profile free agent could be the difference in winning the division or being left in an undesirable Wild Card situation.
The new playoff format should bring an even better level of baseball to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
Games between the two franchises are already full of emotion, but now, they could get even better.
Matchups between the two teams will be more important than ever before last season, as the bigger the division lead, the better.
In 2011, the Yankees went just 6-12 against the Red Sox. If they hope to win the division next season, that record will have to improve. Having a record like that against the Sox this season could prove very detrimental to the team's playoff standing with the new system.
Overall, the quality of games between the two teams will increase given the new format.
Exciting New Playoff Scenarios
The Yankees and Red Sox have had quality playoff matchups throughout the course of their rivalry. There could be many more in store given the new format.
Just imagine this: The Tampa Bay Rays win the AL East sometime in the future. The Yankees and Red Sox come in second and third, respectively, but their records are good enough to qualify them for the Wild Card spots.
The next step in this situation would be great for baseball. The Yankees and Sox would then battle it out in a one-game playoff to make the postseason.
This would bring an edge to the rivalry that hasn't been seen since Bucky Dent's days.
One-game playoffs would add an exciting new dimension to the rivalry.