After talking about it for years, Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it will add one Wild Card team to each league, and the two teams will square off in a one-game playoff to determine which one advances to the Divisional Series.
“It’s an extra playoff game,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “The one criticism we’ve had is that we didn’t put enough on winning the division. Now we have. Now we have in a big way.”
The new system could be in place next season, but definitely in 2013.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, if there had been two Wild Card teams in 2007 and 2008, the Mets would have been one of them, making the collapses a little bit easier to take.
On the other hand, it dilutes the playoff pool. Now 10 of the 30 teams will make the playoffs — that’s 33%. This would possibly allow unworthy teams to make the playoffs.
Also, if there had been two Wild Card winners in each league this season, we would not have gotten that incredible final day of the season, although that was likely a once-in-a-lifetime day in which all the stars aligned that will never happen again.
But what it boils down to is that it rewards teams for winning the division. There was a division race a few seasons ago between the Yankees and the Red Sox that came down to the final weekend with the two teams playing each other. It should have been a dramatic showdown for the ages. Only there was no drama because both teams were guaranteed the playoffs. Sure, the division winner got home field advantage, but that’s really not much of a big deal in baseball. Imagine if the loser had to first play a sudden-death game to advance in the playoffs while the other team got to sit back and arrange its rotation. Then we would have seen plenty of drama.
I will, however, feel bad for a Wild Card team with 99 wins which loses its division by one game having to play the second Wild Card which got into the playoffs with 85 wins. It’s kind of not fair to that far superior Wild Card team, but what are you going to do? That team should have won a couple of more games!