Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, of course. For example, many people think the extra Wild Card team is a good thing, others don’t like it. That is all well and good. But it shocks me when supposedly respected sportswriters attempt to back up their opinion with facts that actually undermine their view, and they don’t even know it.
Such is the case in this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated. Ben Reiter claims the additional Wild Card team is a bad idea because it will
likely push further into the past the days when the sport’s best team regularly wound up as that season’s champion.
He writes on:
Even after MLB expanded its playoff field from two teams to four in 1969, the postseason served mostly to confirm that its best club was actually its best club.
He then says that in the 25 years that followed, the team with the best regular-season record made it to the World Series 64% of the time. Okay, not bad. But then he says that best team won the championship 28% of the time. That also means the best team didn’t win the championship a whopping 62% of the time. So explain, Ben, how does this “confirm that its best club was actually its best club”? Seems like this debunks your theory.
He goes on to say that things have gotten worse since the Wild Card was introduced:
Only three clubs with the best regular-season record have won the World Series (18%), and just seven have reached the Fall Classic (41%).
He correctly points out that it is often the team that got hot at the right time which walked away with the title, not the supposed better one.
But here’s the thing — this extra Wild Card is designed to cool down that hot team. Before this, the Wild Card teams were on a level playing field with the division winners. Now that playing field is tilted away from the Wild Cards. They have to play an extra game, and possibly take a couple of long plane rides before taking on the well-rested division winner. They will not be able to set up their rotation like the division winners can.
All of this is to the detriment of the Wild Cards, in favor of the division winners. I think we will see fewer Wild Card teams going all the way from here on out, which is what Reiter wants, apparently. It’s amazing to me that the logic is lost on him.