Two teams will be eliminated from the postseason on Friday night after fighting hard for 162 games over a six-month span to earn a playoff spot. While the players might not enjoy that equation, the new Wild Card format is awesome for baseball fans.
Atlanta Braves superstar Chipper Jones, whose legendary career will come to an end whenever the team he's led for nearly two decades gets knocked out, made his thoughts on the subject crystal clear, based on a report from David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I think it’s stupid, to be honest with you. But Major League Baseball wants a bunch of teams in the playoffs. There’s nothing like cut-throat baseball for the fans. And people love that 163rd regular-season game. They’ve loved it in the past. I’m sure that’s probably what’s promoted a second wild-card team. I wish they would’ve done it a year earlier so we would have had a chance last year. But it is what it is.
A lot of players probably feel the same way as Jones, but the second portion of the third baseman's comments is more important than the first. It all comes down to what the fans want since they are the ones who buy the tickets and watch on television.
Getting two extra teams involved in the playoffs, which attracts two additional fanbases, and making it a single do-or-die game to advance will allow the MLB postseason to begin on a high note. That was the goal of the new format.
Drama attracts an audience. That's why more people usually tune in to watch Game 7 instead of Game 1. Fans, especially the casual ones baseball is trying to bring in, love the idea of having all the chips on the table for one game.
It's one of many reasons the NFL has dominated the sports landscape in recent years. Every game in the playoffs is for all the marbles and that's a storyline that never fails. It's the ultimate reality show playing out in real time.
In the American League, the Wild Card matchup will feature the Baltimore Orioles, a team few people gave a chance of reaching this point, against the Texas Rangers, who are now forced to win a play-in game after letting their AL West lead slip away.
It's a game that highlights another key reason the new format is good for fans. In a longer series, the Rangers would be a heavy favorite given the team's higher talent level and playoff experience from the last few years.
Since this is just a one-game series, literally anything can happen. One bad bounce could result in the two-time defending AL champions being eliminated on Friday night, and fans will want to be watching if that happens.
The other play-in game features Jones' Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals, who yet again started to get hot just in time for the playoffs. It's another matchup with no shortage of storylines that will play well with fans.
By the end, either Jones' career will come to an end or last year's World Series winners will be eliminated, ensuring a fresh champion in 2012. It doesn't get much bigger than that for a wild card clash.
Even though two teams will have every right to be disappointed when the dust settles, the fans (outside of the losing cities) should be happy and it will give baseball an enthusiasm boost heading into the next round and beyond.
It's not a format that makes everybody happy, but it should be a successful one.
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