MLB Wild Card: 5 Reasons Baseball Purists Hate the Move
For every 10 people who believe in forward progress, there is at least one who clings to the past, and with MLB’s new plan to add an extra wild card team to each league playoff race, baseball purists will be outraged once again.
Depending on whom you ask, Bud Selig is either a saint for doubling the number of annual playoff teams from four to the current eight, or a disgrace for supporting the designated hitter in the American League or allowing the All-Star game to determine home field advantage in the World Series.
All but the most stubborn purists support a structure that creates more meaningful September games and adds to the financial bottom line, but the arguments of the old school will gain strength against Selig’s current plan to add an extra Wild Card entry into the playoff fold.
Here’s a look at why...
More Playoff Teams Devalues the Regular Season
There are 162 games to be played from April through September and they can’t all be exciting. The primary argument of baseball purists is that any addition made to the postseason is a subtraction from the supreme value of the grueling summer schedule.
There was little room for an upset or undeserving champion when the format excluded all but the four division winners and with so many Wild Card champions, it is obvious that the new format has permanently altered the course of history.
Additional Wild Card teams will further mitigate the importance of the regular season and trivialize the eventual champion in the eyes of the baseball purist.
More Difficult to Compare One Era to Another
Much of the outrage hurled at former steroid users does not relate to the influence of young athletes or dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, but simply to the dramatic effect of steroids on statistics.
Since so many baseball players used steroids from the mid-1990s to 2004, we will never have an appropriate way to measure their statistics against the stars of old. This will be the central issue of many Hall of Fame debates and casts an unfair cloud of doubt around the contributions of supposedly clean superstars, as eras will be impossible to compare.
A lesser but similar issue could be raised with more wild card teams and the associated expansion of baseball’s middle class, as the talent pool spreads to more borderline contenders.
While a blessing for baseball’s financial bottom line, the league’s powerhouses will be further pressed to excel and the effect on lineup-inflated numbers is another strike against the decision for those who care more about statistical comparison.
The World Series Champion Will Be Even Less Deserving
Baseball is the ultimate marathon and the playoffs, by contrast, are a pure sprint.
This is a sport where the worst team in the league will beat the best 40 percent of the time and there is almost zero predictability when it comes to playoff odds.
How can a seven game series ever do justice to a 162 game season? Frankly, it can’t.
The playoffs in MLB supposedly determine a champion, but to value one cold month of baseball over six months of varying conditions is to also allow for the possibility that a second-fiddle squad becomes champion by way of a hot streak.
Baseball purists understand this, as fewer playoff teams reduces the luck involved with being an MLB champion and honors the sprint rather than the marathon.
Wild Card Teams Will Be at an Extreme Disadvantage
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been the top spending teams in MLB for a decade and in addition to the brilliant Tampa Bay Rays, they all but guaranteed that the wild card would come from the AL East.
Since there is so much money at stake along the Eastern seaboard, every team in the division must play at a higher level and it is no stretch to say that winning 90 games in the AL East is harder than winning 92 games in the AL Central.
Baseball purists may have hated the wild card when it was created, but they’ll really hate the addition of a fifth team, as the original wild card team must now play a one-game playoff to finally enter the Big Dance.
That means a possible 95-win Rays, Red Sox or Yankees team might need to play a one-game playoff for the right to face 90 AL Central wins.
How much should one be punished for the division they play in? Baseball purists didn’t like the wild card a decade ago, and it just became even less fair.
Babe Ruth Didn’t Play This Way!
The Dead Ball era died when Babe Ruth brought the lumber to Olde Fenway and modern baseball statistics finally took on their current relevance.
Since the days of hot dogs and cigars between innings, baseball purists have lived and died, but their views are largely unchanged. Their true intention is to maintain a historical continuum where all stats and achievements can be compared under the same circumstances, but since Bud Selig runs a league that likes to turn a profit when possible, the baseball purist will be ignored at every turn in exchange for more company to watch a game with.
Since wild cards are about generating interest in the game, but arguably do little to qualify an MLB champion, baseball purists will never agree with the practice. Besides, Babe Ruth didn’t play this way, and who knows what he’d hit if only there’d been a wild card chase.