Now that MLB has brought in a second wild-card team, this will obviously give the middle-of-the-pack teams some new hope come the 2013 regular season.
Playing in the ultra-competitive AL East almost guarantees the Jays and the Orioles prime-time real estate on the golf course. These two teams, have in recent memory, been out of the playoff picture since the All-Star break. Now with this new wild card, the Jays are now in prime position to make a run for the playoffs.
I was almost certain last year that the Jays had a legitimate shot at finally returning to the promised land. With a new manager, the emergence of Jose Bautista as an unearthly power threat and great young pitching, it had to be there year right? Wrong.
The young pitching staff greatly underperformed—Brett Cecil 4-11 4.73, Brandon Morrow 11-11 4.72—and regulars failed to pull their weight (Adam Lind .251 26/87). The Jays had an uneventful yet very familiar 81W 81L season.
If the core group of Jays can stay healthy and improve, even slightly, their chances have to improve. It's more than likely Toronto will compete with wild-card hopefuls from the East in the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, and quite possibly the Angels from the West.
According to MLB.com, Alex Anthopoulos won’t let this change his overall strategy, but does admit this is beneficial for everyone involved.
"I think it goes without saying that if you have a chance for more meaningful games in September, that is good for the game," Anthopoulos said before the CBA became official. "I understand the other argument of the importance of winning your division, and that is what separates baseball from all the other sports.
"But I think for the most part, if they're doing things like [adding a team], it's because the players are on side, the owners are on side, everyone feels it's for the good of the game."
Everything is screaming positive, but what I hope doesn’t happen is that teams, if faced with an early season struggle, begin playing for only the wild card. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance, so it’s just something to think about.
Bud Selig has been criticized relentlessly over the years for how he handled the steroid situation. However, Selig is finding news way to keep the game exciting and leveling the playing field the best way he knows how. Selig confirmed earlier this week in a press conference that “the two wild-card teams in each league would play in a single postseason game to see who would advance to the Divisional Series,” which really doesn’t affect the teams that win their division.
What we witnessed to close out the 2011 regular season was the stuff legends are made of, but can you imagine the final day of the season in 2013 if two sets of wild-card potentials are at war for those precious playoff spots? If baseball wasn’t already a nerve-wracking game, picture the multiple scenarios when the outsiders are finally looking in and knocking on that playoff door.
Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective