Boston Red Sox: Why It's Better To Win the Wild Card Instead of the AL East
I don’t care if the Red Sox win the AL East.
That banner that would hang above Yawkey Way that says 2011 AL East Champions means absolutely nothing to me. You’d get the same emotional response from me if they were to hang up a Quiznos sign.
Sure, it’s nice to have a better record than the Yankees, but it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s record is set to zero and zero once the calendar reaches September 30th.
“Blasphemy! Blasphemy!” shouts Red Sox Nation at my open window. Before I call the cops to get them off of my property, I will do them the service of explaining why I do not care if the Red Sox end up playing second fiddle to the Yankees within the division.
Wild-Card Winners Get a Fair Shake When It Comes To Reaching the World Series
In the past 16 seasons, eight of the World Series matchups have involved teams that got to the postseason via the Wild Card. This tells us that the odds of playing in the Fall Classic as a wild-card winner are just as good as winning the division.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the 2004 Red Sox are the last team to have won the World Series after getting there with a fourth-place league finish. The last wild-card winning team to reach the World Series were the 2007 Colorado Rockies. One more thing to make myself look bad: Of the 32 teams that have made up the last 16 World Series matchups, only nine of them were wild-card winners.
This makes some sense, seeing as the winner of a division is usually clearly better than any given wild-card team, as 162 games is a large sample size and a team’s record often accurately reflects just how good they are.
In the case of Boston vs. New York, though, there will probably only be a few games separating the two when the regular season is played out. In this specific instance, a division title won’t matter since the first- and second-place finishers in the AL East will likely have the second- and third-best records in all of baseball.
The Red Sox Do NOT Want To Play the Texas Rangers
Have you seen the Boston Red Sox play against the Texas Rangers this year? Scratch that. Have you seen the Boston Red Sox play the Texas Rangers the last three years? Not. Good. The season series between the Red Sox and Rangers currently stands at four wins for Boston and six wins for Texas. Over the past three seasons, the Red Sox are 10-19 against the Rangers.
Boston really shouldn’t mess with Texas. And if they win the Wild Card, they won’t have to. The Detroit
Verlanders Tigers are the better playoff matchup. While Detroit is certainly a good team, Boston went 5-1 against them in 2011, and 14-5 over the last three seasons.
Given the choice, Boston fans should be more excited about going to Detroit than going to Texas. That’s the most bizarre sentence I have ever written.
Is There Really a Home-Field Advantage in the American League This Year?
Fenway Park appears to be tailor-made for this year’s Red Sox team, but their record at home when compared to their record on the road may suggest otherwise.
Boston has gone 42-29 at Fenway, which is obviously good. Boston’s road record is a slightly better 43-28.
It’s possible that the Red Sox will flip the script before the season is over since both of the records are close. There are 10 games left at home and 10 left on the road before season’s end. This point could end up being totally moot.
What’s likely to happen is that the team ends up with very similar records home and away. There will be no indicator as to how much of an advantage home field would really give them. Plus, baseball isn’t basketball; home-field advantage really doesn’t matter all that much.
Oh, lest we forget the AL didn’t win the All-Star Game this year. Even if the Red Sox get the best record in the AL, and get home field for both the ALDS and ALCS, they wouldn’t get it throughout. No reason to break our backs for a negligible advantage. Also, if the Sox sweep the World Series, they could finally clinch a title at home (although, no one is going to sweep the Phillies. Actually, I don’t know if anyone can beat the Phillies).
Winning Through the Wild Card Just Feels Better
Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s much more rewarding to win a World Series title when baseball purists don’t believe that we should be there in the first place. Since the Wild Card was introduced into the league for the 1994 season (but not used until the 1995 season since rich people were fighting), a lot of people have complained about the existence of the extra playoff spot since baseball was always exclusionary when it came to teams making the playoffs, and change is bad!
Now maybe the Wild Card was introduced for only monetary purposes (it was), but it keeps the idea of an underdog story, in some capacity, alive. Winning a title without winning the division just tastes sweeter. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas.
There’s no reason to fret if Boston finishes second. It just may be the best thing that could happen to them.