MLB Playoffs: Will an Expansion of the Wild Card Help or Hurt the Sport?

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MLB Playoffs: Will an Expansion of the Wild Card Help or Hurt the Sport?
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There has recently been a lot of talk about a wild-card expansion in the MLB.  The MLB wild-card format that we use today was introduced back in 1994. The wild card was made in order to make the MLB playoffs more exciting and, most of all, give other talented teams a shot at winning the World Series.

The main reason behind creating a wild-card team in the MLB was that a countless number of teams missed the playoffs while they had a better overall record than a division winner. One of the many examples of this happened back in the 1990 MLB season.

The 1990 MLB playoffs consisted of the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. The Reds and Pirates were the winners of the Western Division and the Eastern Division in the National League, respectively. The Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics were the winners of the American League's Eastern and Western divisions, respectively.

The Oakland Athletics compiled the best overall record in 1990, with 103 wins and only 59 losses. The Boston Red Sox met the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series, where the A's swept the Red Sox and advanced to the World Series. It seemed as if the Red Sox were overpowered by the A's, and that may have been the truth.  

The Red Sox finished the season with a record of 88-74. The A's dismissed the Red Sox with ease, while the Chicago White Sox finished the 1990 season with a better overall record (94-68) than Boston, but still didn't make the playoffs. Instead, the Red Sox went on to play October baseball. 

The reason for this was because the White Sox were in the same division as the Athletics, and only one team from each division made the playoffs. The team with the most wins in their respective division was rewarded with an opportunity to win the World Series. The Red Sox played in an inferior division and were rewarded for that, while the White Sox were left out, ultimately costing them a shot at a World Series title.  

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It was clear the MLB playoff system was flawed and changes would be made.

As mentioned earlier, the wild card was introduced in the MLB in 1994. The new playoff seemed perfect, but people would start complaining again in about 10 years. The argument that people have today against the current playoff system is almost identical to the same arguments that took place in the early '90s. Too many teams that deserve to be in the playoffs miss out each year. It's simple as that, and if you throw in the possibility of more money to come along with the new system, the front offices of the MLB start listening to suggestions.

Despite the changes back in 1994, when the wild card was introduced, problems still exist, and adding another wild card team seems inevitable. Bud Selig is the current commissioner of the MLB, and his interest in expanding the use of the wild card is fairly high. The proposed format would add two teams to the current playoff system—one extra wild-card team from each league. The wild card will work the same way, but this time, the top two records of non-division winners in each league will reach the playoffs.  

It has been speculated that if the proposal is approved, there will be a mini playoff series between the two Wild Card winners of each league. A mini playoff series most likely means a one-game playoff or a three-game series between the two teams. No matter what format is used, the MLB will most likely make more money than it does now with the current playoff system. I believe that may be a big reason of why Selig seems interested in this.

It looks as if the question of MLB wild-card expansion right now is "when?" and not "if." Assuming the MLB expands the use of the wild-card teams in the near future, will it be good or bad for the league?

I believe expanding the wild card would be a great move for the MLB. It will create much more opportunities, competition and even possibly increase revenue. It will also give more deserving teams a spot in the playoffs. Another reason is that it will dramatically increase competition for teams to win their division to avoid being a wild-card team and having to play another playoff series.

Today in the MLB, teams couldn't really care less about how they make the playoffs. Be it by winning their division or winning the wild card, there really is no reward for being the better team and winning your division. The expansion of the Wild Card would change that competition for two teams in a close division race in September.

The current system is definitely not perfect, and there likely won't be a perfect solution, but the truth is that this proposal's positives outweigh any negatives it might have. This move would be fantastic for the MLB all around, and it will be very interesting to see how this manifests in the near future.

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