A second wild card in each league could be a reality within the next couple years.
We’re about halfway through the League Championship Series of 2011. While the remaining four teams battle for that World Series Champion title, the rest are looking for ways to improve and make it to that spot next year.
Some teams just missed the cut; others are hoping for a dramatic improvement to help them make a playoff appearance soon. No matter what end of the spectrum these teams are on, a second wild card could be just what they need to spark their postseason dominance.
In the American League, there’s a very good chance the wild card spot will be given to someone in the American League East every year. Even the final game of the 2011 regular season came down to the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
For a team like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a second wild card would be a way to get into the playoffs without having to finish over both the likes of Boston or Tampa Bay. The Texas Rangers have become a surging power in the American League West, and the Angels almost caught them at one point in September.
The way the teams of the AL East play, though, makes the other divisions seem to have an all-or-nothing strategy, where they either win the division to make the playoffs, or look forward to next season.
It’s tough to play in the American League East. Jose Bautista had an incredible year that put his name in the top group of MVP candidates. That was minimized because of his team’s unexciting finish out of the playoffs.
A second wild card would in no way guarantee the Toronto Blue Jays to a postseason appearance, but it could give them a bit more hope. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have all been extremely competitive.
That second wild-card spot could give the Blue Jays more hope after living in the shadows of this intimidating division.
Boston fans had another tough year. What looked to be a playoff-bound season quickly turned sour as the Red Sox went 7-19 in September. Losing their final game on September 28 allowed the Tampa Bay Rays to sneak up from behind and snag the wild-card spot.
While it was an extremely exciting finish—not exactly for Boston—Red Sox fans now have an entire offseason to replay that last month over and over. They would still be playing if there were a second wild card.
It might not be as exciting for Tampa Bay fans, but it would give Boston fans a whole lot more to cheer for.
The Atlanta Braves had a very similar collapse to the Boston Red Sox this year. They had a 10.5 game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals at the beginning of September but ended up losing it. They were knocked out of the playoffs on the last day.
Their collapse made matters worse. If there had been a second wild card, there probably would not have been as much pressure on the Braves, unless the San Francisco Giants had been able to pull it together.
The fanbase would not have had to deal with such a depressing blow, and they might still be playing right now.
The Washington Nationals are the most recent team to have relocated. They still have a good fanbase from the Montreal Expos, as well as in their new hometown, but they have yet to win a pennant. They only have one National League East title as the Montreal Expos from 1981, the year a player strike forced the season to be split into halves.
A shot at a World Series title, especially as the Nationals, would certainly increase their fanbase and revenue, as well as improve their chances at success later on.
The Nationals also represent the other teams in the National League East: the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. Like the Blue Jays, these teams have to play in a league dominated by the same teams every year. A second wild card would improve the chances of the other teams of the NL East.
The playoffs are not incredibly long. It’s not always about the teams with the best records; if a team is hot, it only takes 11 wins to take home the title. These teams just want a chance to get that far.
Ally Williams is a B/R MLB Featured Columnist. To contact, leave a note below or follow Ally on Twitter for updates and a constant sarcastic interpretation of the sports world.