Major League Baseball calls the wild card game the first round of the playoffs. Much like the NCAA tries to pretend the play-in games are the first round of March Madness. We know better.
I applaud baseball for shaking off some rust and getting proactive about what modern day sports fans want.
Baseball has always seemed to be two steps behind the other major sports in pretty much everything. That said, how great is it that we now have two extra wild card teams?
I don't know. Ask Cleveland Indian fans.
I could include the Cincinnati Reds in this conversation, but they backed into their wild card spot. They played poorly down the stretch and looked like a team that had no business being part of the postseason conversation during the last couple weeks.
But the Indians are a team that hitched up their big boy pants and got things done when no one expected it. They rode a brilliant streak right down to game 162 of the season to pass Tampa Bay and hold off Texas.
It was great for both the fans of Cleveland and the game of baseball.
Their reward: One game, and it was an ugly one.
The Indians made Alex Cobb look like Bob Feller, flailing helplessly at pitch after pitch. It became obvious fairly early that this wasn't going to go well for the Tribe.
The Indians playoff run lasted less than four hours.
As a baseball fan, I felt empty after that. It doesn't seem right that a team that won ten straight games, earning the privilege of entering the playoffs, was summarily dumped in less than four hours.
At least Cleveland fans got a home game, as bad as it was.
Reds fans didn't get a single opportunity to root for their team.
A one game playoff is too arbitrary. These teams play an entire season to fight for the opportunity to represent their fans in postseason. Too much rides on the two pitchers who are selected to take the bump. It doesn't represent what a team has managed to accomplish throughout the regular season.
So why not make it a three game series? It levels out a potentially uneven pitching match-up in a one game winner take all, it gives both teams the opportunity to play a home game, it increases television revenue, and it simply feels like an actual series.
What is the downside—that it backs up the playoffs a couple of days?
For goodness sake, I followed the Blackhawks in last years hockey playoffs. From the time the puck dropped in their first playoff series up to the day they clinched the cup, I swear my three-year-old son grew four inches.
Long playoffs are fine. We're fans, we don't mind more games.
The history books will show the 2013 Cleveland Indians were a wildcard team, but no one will remember that in five years. Let's give fans a reason to remember. Turn the play-in game into an actual series.