These new wild cards will face off with the standard AL/NL wild-card teams in a one-game playoff to determine who officially moves onto ALDS play.
There are many pros and cons to this concept, but I am finding a hard time focusing on the positives. This piece will go over some of the main gripes with the second wild card in general, the one-game format and the motives behind the decision.
Feel free to comment and let me know how you feel on both MLB's idea and the article, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Major League Baseball began with the World Series and nothing else, a true test of best versus best in either league.
Expansion forced baseball’s hand to add an ALCS to the playoff structure, and there is absolutely no doubt that was the correct move both competitively and financially for the league.
The move to three MLB division champions and a wild card team came next, yet maintained the exclusivity of postseason play and the importance of competing within your own division.
Now baseball intends on allowing 10 of the 30 MLB teams to reach October—potentially three from one division. The overall strength of the team pool will undoubtedly be reduced in some years.
Further explaining the “watering down” argument, the AL East typically contains two of the best (if not THE best) teams in the AL in a given season.
Whether the Red Sox, Yankees or Rays are having a big-time season, baseball’s best division often claims the wild card with a battle-tested 95-win team.
If a team with a bona fide “ace” but nothing else wins the second wild card spot with 88 wins and a flawed team, they could easily knock off a FAR better AL East squad in a one-game playoff—a team forced to go through a gauntlet no other division provides to earn that spot.
I would have less issues with this concept if the two worst records faced off as opposed to the two wild cards. A 95-win team from the AL East would hypothetically deserve a pass to the ALDS over an 88-win AL Central champion.
Most baseball prognosticators already feel that the ALDS’s five-game format is an issue, allowing teams with severe weaknesses in the rotation to compensate with three-man rotations with minimal punishment.
The better team can often get picked off in this format, and if anything baseball should be expanding the ALDS to seven games as opposed to adding a do-or-die round.
I fully understand that MLB does not want to further delay the season’s end well into November or force division champions to sit around and rust while wild card teams battle out a three-game series, but one game does not do this process justice.
Admittedly, the excitement level would be incredible but a 162-game marathon should not come down to nine innings.
The overwhelming majority of baseball personnel will look to the drama that the first wild card has created in the league and automatically assume a second will do the same.
Look to 2011 and what unfolded with the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox, however. Their nearly historic collapses would have meant far less knowing that Tampa Bay or St. Louis could sprint past them without consequence.
Neither Boston nor Atlanta had any chance of a division title at the time, so what’s the difference between first or second wild card? The new format would actually create far less drama in many years as a result of the new format.
There are strong arguments for the new format in helping out mid-market teams in September. A team that may have once been out on September 1st could continue to draw fans through the final week of the season if competing for the second wild-card spot.
It is practically a novel concept, and franchises will see more ticket sales as a result. Unfortunately, every decision that a league makes in today’s environment is first and foremost about money—as NFL fans saw first-hand with owners’ attempts at an 18-game schedule.
In a vacuum with no other factors, I don’t think this is far off from being a fun idea. The application of that idea, however, has MAJOR flaws and will ultimately create a more negative competitive impact than expected.
Teams like the Rays and Blue Jays deserve a shot to taste October even if the Yankees and Sox are in top form, but the one-game concept is something MLB clearly missed the boat on here.