The addition of a second wild card to the MLB playoffs looks like a good idea…as of right now.
Under the one wild card format, the second half of the season could essentially be a bore:
Let’s start in the AL, where the East appears to be over.
Both AL West teams are strong enough to likely get in, leaving the AL Central winner (and yes, this could be a close race, but last year Detroit pulled away big time in September) as the final of four qualifying teams. Not much drama.
I’m not a fan of the do-or-die aspect of the one-game wild-card round, but it allows fans of AL teams like Baltimore, Cleveland, Boston, Tampa, Toronto and yes, Oakland (arguably the hottest team in baseball), a reason to show up and follow their teams the next few months. Right now, eight teams are withing one and a half games of the Wild Card.
The Senior Circuit is very jumbled, which makes it more exciting to have five teams qualify for the best, quickest, most exciting and least predictable postseason in professional sports.
Obviously, Washington and Pittsburgh are the best stories in baseball right now, and the extra Wild Card gives their fans’ insurance that barring a colossal collapse over the next 10 weeks, the Nats and Bucs will play meaningful games deep into September. With the best record in the NL, Washington likely has its sights even farther.
The new system also allows the Mets — a team many picked for 100 losses — a chance to stay in the playoff race for a while; same with Saint Louis, Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco and a host of others.
It will be nice to know that if a division runner-up wins 90 games (ala Boston and Atlanta in 2011), they can still play in October. They’ve earned it. I’m speaking of a consolation “prize” for the team who falls short in the Dodgers/Giants or Pirates/Reds/Cardinals races — both of which are extremely tight right now.
With Ryan Braun quieting his doubters by putting up MVP numbers again, I wouldn’t count Milwaukee out yet either; and as awful as they have been (and showing no signs of getting better now that their aging, overpaid “stars” are back), you know the northeast media is dying to make the Phillies relevant during the season’s dog days.
So, though I’m something of a purist, I welcomed the playoff adjustments this past March.
Because Major League Baseball rightly opposes full implementation of replay (it’s what makes NFL games so dull and long), the league is wrongly deemed “old-fashioned” or “unwilling to change” by the lazy sports media. That’s false and absurd.
No sport has made more wise changes (immensely popular IL Play, divisional and league switches, postseason format tweaks, cutting back playoff days off, etc) than MLB the past 15 or so years. And the success of said changes is shown via the game’s incredible popularity.
Baseball has endured no work stoppages either, while all the other leagues have seen recent greed and labor unrest.
In comparison, NBA has a playoffs that never ends, and is as predictable (once Derrick Rose went down in Game 1, we all knew it’d be OKC/SA vs Miami in the Finals nearly two long months later) as rain in Seattle or hurricanes in Florida.
And the NFL is riddled with major issues (exorbitant ticket prices, violent bounties, 94% of the game being dead time and rapidly dropping attendance) that the media is reluctant to mention when it’s so easy to irresponsibly bash baseball. (OK, one intrepid media member did his job honestly.)
Meanwhile, Major and Minor League Baseball continue to gain popularity, especially at the Box Office — even if no loud voices will pass the news along.
The additional Wild Card continues the trend of good.