When MLB announced the inclusion of a second wild card team in early 2012, I wasn’t a big fan. At the time, the Indians couldn’t even dream about a wild card slot, so the whole thing seemed like a theoretical exercise. After this post-season, I’m still not a fan of the new format. When the league moved to three divisions in 1995, the addition of a single wild card team in each league was something of a necessity. You need four teams, not three, to play a fair league championship. The addition of a second wild card team and the one-game playoff still strikes me as an exercise in money grubbing as opposed to expanding opportunities for more teams to participate in the playoffs.

You could argue that this season, we saw two one-game playoffs–the tiebreaker between the Rays and the Rangers and the actual wild card game between the Indians and the Rays. It may sound like sour grapes to say I don’t like the second wild card because my team lost in the one-game format. If the old rules were still in place, the Indians would have simply played Boston in the divisional series.  Given our 1-6 record against Boston during the 2013 season, we would have lost that series just as sure as these beards are butt-ugly. It’s not a question of whether we would have fared better under the old format. It’s a question of whether the new format is even necessary. I don’t think so.

The last day of the 2011 regular season was incredibly exciting, with some come-from-behind victories to determine the AL wild card spot. In 2009, the Twins and Tigers had a one-game playoff to determine the AL Central division champion. What made all those games special was that they were unexpected. No one went into the 2011 season expecting so much excitement from game 162. No one went into the 2009 season expecting a game 163. The second wild card game seems like an artificial attempt to create excitement. (Sometimes product innovation is lovely. Sometimes it’s stupid. New Coke, anyone?) Plus, any system that requires this many rules in order to implement it might not be the most sensible.

Ten of 30 MLB teams now participate in the post-season in some way. Up until 1969, 1/12 of MLB teams played beyond the regular season–each league winner met in the World Series. That was it.  How much can you expand the playoff pool before you begin to dilute it and reward mediocrity? Just because you can add teams doesn’t mean you should.

Okay, time to stop griping and watch the World Series.




  • Gvl Steve says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous to think that one game is a fair way to determine which is the better team when it took 162 games just to get there. The NHL is bad too. You pretty much have to be in last place to miss the playoffs there. Why even bother with a regular season?

  • Michael Hagesfeld says:

    While I feel that the argument can certainly be made that A) a 1-game series in baseball is ridiculous and B) a second WC is a money grab (welcome to sports), I am generally in favor of having 2 if you’re going to have 1 (but NOT any more). The reason is I agree with the rationale that being the WC team was not enough of a disadvantage, and a premium should be placed on winning your division. I LIKE the WC winner having to screw up their rotation, and maybe be tired from flying around. Too many WC teams were winning of late, it felt like, and I want it to be a big disadvantage to have to overcome.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    I love the new system for two reasons… 1. It keeps more fan bases interested late in the season. In the long run, this is huge for baseball as the overall popularity of the sport has dwindled… 2. It is a HUGE disadvantage. Home field advantage has proven to be nearly nonexistent in baseball, so a wild card team is essentially on even footing in the playoffs. By making them play a 1 game playoff, not only do the wild card teams have only a 50/50 shot at actually making the real playoffs, but they burn their best available starting pitcher. From 2000 to 20011, two teams with fewer than 90 wins won the WS. The same number of times it happened between 1959 and 1999. We’re now back to rewarding the elite teams, and I love that.

  • Cale says:

    I agree with Ryan and Michael that the worst teams should have a disadvantage. The problem is, the worst team isn’t always the WC team. This actually brings me to my biggest gripe in all sports….divisions…

    This year was the rare case, where the 6 best records were actually the 6 division winners…but even if we go back to last year, Detroit won the AL Central with 88 wins while Baltimore and Texas had a 1 game playoff after having 93 wins each. Why is geographic location (aka divisions) such a big factor in determining which teams are “best”. IMO, Detroit should have had to play the WC game, even though they won the division. Emphsis should be on number of wins, not on beating only 4 other teams. Sorry, rant over.

  • medfest says:

    In order to have a true wild card in a league all the teams would have to play balanced schedules,not 18 against their division foes and six against everyone else in the league.That’s the only way the wild card team would truly be one of the top four teams.

    Would the Indians have won 92 without playing Chicago and Minnesota 38 times?
    Tampa Bay played Boston ,New York ,Baltimore and Toronto 18-19 times each and made the wild card game,which team deserved it more?

    As long as they play imbalanced schedules and inter league games that lead to these discrepancies,the play in game will be a poor compromise but it’s all they can do.