MLB’s Second Wild Card Looks Like a Good Idea

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:


The second Wild Card is great for Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates who, barring a total collapse, will be playing meaningful games in September for the first time in decades.

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.)

And despite what ESPN says, College Football is coming off perhaps its worst season of all time on and especially off the field.

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.

About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. Great article! Couldn’t agree more about the second wild card spot. Teams who would have traditionally been “down and out” at this point of the year despite a close to .500 record are still very much in the playoff hunt. The A’s are perhaps the best example of this. I’m an Orioles fan, and I haven’t been this excited about a season in years. It’s great for baseball as its made more teams competitive and its made more games matter. The result is great whether your an Orioles fan like me or you’re a casual baseball fan that wants to see a hard-fought game between two teams in the hunt.

  2. AJ Kaufman says:

    That is correct. Like I wrote, a wise change (as was Astros to the AL). Don’t look for the media to note this, just as they wont criticize the myriad issues in the NFL or demand Dictator Stern shorten his endless NBA playoffs. I’m not a huge Selig fan, but MLB continues to make more necessary changes than any sport, which continuously work out.

  3. Are we sure Jeff Passan in drag didn’t really just write this??

    Seriously – after watching Oakland beat up on the Twins last couple days (and it was only the Twins), the A’s ARE in the mix. Of the three teams not in contention, Royals are a year away, they are next year’s Pirates.

    NL isn’t as jumbled. Philly is done, still 11 games out just of the Wild Card, Nats are the new Phillies. There are really only eight teams in the hunt, unless you want to count the three 42-46 teams. Of those, Marlins (who I picked for World Series) have no chance, adding aging/fat Carlos Lee isn’t going to help much plus Stanton out. Brewers and D-Backs are capable of climbing back in race, and no one is running away with NL Central/NL West – but they’re going to have to go nuts like Cards did late last year, which is why I’m not writing those two off.

  4. AJ Kaufman says:

    Jeff Passan, despite being paid well to cover the game, rarely has kind words for baseball. He’s to be ignored.

    I understand your break down, but the overall point is that many teams who’d basically be done, are still very much alive.

    Also, as we saw with .150 Ryan Howard getting front page news tonight for homering off a Double-A pitcher (Howard is a pitiful 1 for his last 17), the media will do anything they can to pump up the Phillies aka the Yanks/Red Sox of the NL.

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