Two Wild Card Teams From Each League? No Thanks
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is toying with the idea of adding two additional playoff teams to the mix next year, bumping the field up while potentially watering the competition down. The concept hasn’t been set in stone, but the most likely scenario would involve each league getting an extra wild card berth. The two wild cards teams in each league would play each other in a best of three series, the winners move on and the playoffs as we know them today begin.
If the playoff expansion were in effect this year, the Cardinals would be right in the thick of things for the final National League playoff spot. While that would be great for Cardinals fans, count me as part of the crowd that says “thanks, but no thanks.”
Why don’t I like the idea? For starters, I think it’s unfair. It is absolutely ridiculous to have teams play 162 games only to have their fate decide in a one (or more likely three) game series. Take the standings this year as an example:
In the American League, the wild card leading Red Sox are on pace for 99 wins. The Rays are next in line, on pace for 88 wins. Think about that: Boston would have to face a team in the same division, 11 games behind them, in a crap-shoot three game series where anything and everything can go wrong. In the blink of an eye, their season could be over.
In the National League, it’s not much better. The 96-win Braves would have to play the 86-win Giants in a three game playoff… the same team that ousted them last year in a best of 5.
Did I mention that both Boston and Atlanta just so happen to have the 2nd best records in their respective leagues? With the new playoff format, it wouldn’t matter. So what would/should be a #2 seed with home field advantage in the NLDS and a “bye” in the “wild card round” would instead be thrown into a best of 3 with a team that was basically only slightly above mediocre the past six months. It’s just not fair.
The other reason I wouldn’t be all too thrilled about the 5th playoff spot is because frankly neither the Cardinals, Giants, Rays, or Angels particularly deserve to go to the playoffs, at least that would be the case this year. Typically in baseball, the motto is “90+ wins and you’re in.” This year, we’re on pace for 8 teams to have 90+ wins… funny how that works out, no? Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule (see: the 83 win World Champion Cardinals of 2006) and that’s why you won’t hear me say I wouldn’t want to see the Cardinals make it to the playoffs this year. Saying something like that is simply ridiculous. If the playoff field does expand to five teams in each league next year, I do not expect any fans of the 5th team in to be making apologies or wish they weren’t in for fear of embarrassment. Sports are crazy. If you get in the field and anything can happen. Already this year we’ve seen Virginia Commonwealth University go from “last 4 in” and a play-in game in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament to the Final Four… and the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks come within a touchdown of hosting the NFC Championship game. I already talked about the 83-win Cardinals winning it all.
The “anything’s possible” factor is the only redeeming quality about commissioner Selig’s plan to expand the playoff field. But the fairness-factor isn’t quite up to par. Thanks, but no thanks, Bud.