Game 163 And The Expanded Wildcard

** All of these pre-February 2016 blog posts are reposts from my last website.  Each repost has a quick update or note in bold at the start of each post! **

Originally published October 2nd, 2012

Do you pop the champagne?  Congratulations, your team just made the postseason as a Wild Card!  Pass out the hats and t-shirts, but wear them quick, because on Saturday your postseason might already be over.

When Major League Baseball announced their plan to expand the number of playoff teams from 8 to 10, the first thought from fans had to be “10 teams will make the playoffs this year so it just got easier, right?”  While the cost of admission just got “cheaper”, the expansion will truly put the best teams in a position to win.  I love the new change, but the new format is going to cause some quick and vocal criticism from the two teams that are eliminated before their champagne soaked jerseys are dry.  There’s a lot to like about the new format, but there are a few things the League could do differently too.  It will be interesting to see if, and how long, it takes Major League Baseball to change-up the new one game playoff.  Here’s a breakdown:

Expanded Wildcard

* The playoffs go from 8 teams to 10.  Instead of one Wild Card per league immediately making the Divisional Playoffs, they’re going to have to play a one game playoff against another team!

Pros

  • The biggest pro is that it puts the Wild Card teams at an immediate disadvantage.  The one game playoff means that the two teams will have to use their #1 starter and push their top relievers for every pitch (depending on how they finished their season in the rotation).  That moves the winning team directly into a playoff series a pitcher behind. Why shouldn’t the Division winners get an advantage in the playoffs?  No one complains about the NFL’s playoff system.
  • It creates a Game 7 atmosphere at the start of the playoffs!  If you weren’t into the one game playoffs last year, find a new sport.  Imagine being in a situation where teams could be fighting for a playoff spot.  Exhausted and focused, fans are rabid to make the playoffs.  Congratulations, you’re in.  Here’s your one game playoff.  Win or go home.
  • Ratings.  This isn’t a “Play-in Game” like the NCAA tournament.  The NCAA play-in game is a virtual consolation/pity game.  The extra Wild Cards per league are still going to be great teams!  It isn’t like the NFL where a sub .500 team can make the playoffs.  (Sorry Seahawks.)   A one game playoff is going to pull viewers, and it impacts the rest of the playoffs.

Cons

  • “It’s not fair.”  Don’t think the new Wild Card system is fair?  Win your division.  There were fans that complained when Commissioner Selig set up the first Wild Card system.  How do Red Sox and Cardinal fans feel after their Wild Card teams won the World Series?  Where are those fans now?  Expanding the playoffs to include a first Wild Card worked.
  • MLB is leaving money on the table!  Personally, I’d rather have a 3-game playoff to move into the Divisional series.  I know the argument for expanding the playoffs has always come down to stretching the World Series into November.  The owners have been steadfast against shortening the regular season, but you have to think the League would see more payoff from a 3-game playoff series vs 8 more games a year.  I was just at last night’s Mariners game — Trust me, teams that aren’t in contention are seeing very little payoff from 8 more games.

Baseball has evolved.  We saw the first steps of that evolution when the League expanded into Arizona, Colorado and Florida, and then again with the original Wild Card.  They took another step with Interleague play.  It’s OK to disagree with Major League Baseball, but try and understand why they’re doing it.  Moving to a second Wild Card team is the next step to increasing interest and excitement for the game — and isn’t that what any baseball fan wants?  More fans, more fun, and a better future for the game we love.

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