FanPost

Is the 2nd Wildcard A Good Idea?

It is likely there will be two Wildcard playoff spots by 2013. To lambast the idea or to praise it as perfect is unwise. There are advantages and disadvantages to adding a play-in Wildcard game. However, the advantages do outweigh the disadvantages.

Money, of course, is the causing factor of this getting instituted. That's a factor that should never be scoffed at, as MLB is a business at the end of the day. The intrigue is that if there is one additional playoff spot it would add more interest in teams that would be less likely to make into the current playoff format. At the very least, every team's odds mathematically get higher of earning a playoff spot. The main reason this is a good idea is because it makes earning a playoff spot more fair. Under the current format, teams in the Eastern divisions are unfairly punished for being geographically located to more competitive teams. Over the past two seasons, Tampa Bay has had to hope for a ravage of opponent injuries or an unbelievable collapse in order to make the playoffs. Toronto is a formidable team of talented players, but they have next to no chance of making the playoffs. By 2013 under the new system, they have a fighting chance of making one of the Wildcard spots. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays all deserve playoff spots in the American League. In a couple seasons Toronto could easily challenge that group as well. As of now, Tampa Bay and Toronto are very impeded by the current system. The NL East is not much different. The Phillies will likely win the division in 2012, but by 2013 their aging roster might not prove to be the favorites. The Braves have a core of young pitching and appear to be perennial contenders in that division. The Nationals look the most scary down the road, but the Miami Marlins could conceivably build a contender around a young talented group. (You can't count out Alderson's Mets either, playing in a major market). By 2013 I would guess that all four Wildcard spots come out of the Eastern division. The MLB arranges the divisions and schedules in such a way that it is highly skewed toward geography, which favors the Central Division teams and hurts the Eastern Division teams. Adding a 2nd Wildcard comes very close to evening those odds. The MLB wants to save money and travel costs by having an unbalanced schedule? Fine. Just let the good teams that get shafted by the current schedule to still play meaningful September baseball.

 

The best thing this implementation will do for the playoffs is it will reward division winners in a more just fashion. WC winners have won a disproportionate amount of World Series because the "homefield advantage" that division winners receive often works against them. A team may lose against a WC winner's ace in Game 1, come back to even the series... and then the WC team has the effective homefield advantage. The WC play-in game would cause both teams to burn their best starter and line up #2 and #3 against  #1 and #2. That is a more sizable advantage that a 162 schedule has earned for a division winner. 

The biggest disadvantage is the thought of having a full season ride on a 9 inning crapshoot. This is just a reality. It is a tradeoff for having a playoff system that awards merit, as there are more than 8 teams that are good enough for the playoffs (having 10 teams would actually come closer to having the best 10 teams under the skewed division format as well). In 2007, 2008 and 2009, all required play-in games for the playoffs. I don't think there was much strife about a full season coming down to one game. There were 3 game 5's in the Division series this year and a game 7. In the playoffs there might be an entire season decided by chance outcomes. It is the playoffs, after all. The one game play-in only affects the Wild Card winners. A more reasonable playoff structure that has a better chance that the best teams make it (and rewards division winners better) is worth the trade-off for a winner take all game. 

I am grateful that the rule wasn't implemented for the 2011 season. The final day of the season was a remarkable day based on all the seemingly impossible odds for the excitement of the Cardinals and Rays clinching on the final day. But, those odds were so unlikely that it is unreasonable to expect a day like that ever to occur again. People can also cherry pick season where the new playoff format wouldn't work well (2001 AL Wildcard with the A's 102 wins vs the Twins 85). But what about just last year? The 2010 Braves and Padres were only 1 game apart. They both certainly earned a play-in game. The 2002 AL Wild Card -- 99 win Angles, 93 win Seattle, and 93 win Red Sox. The 2004 A's, 2004 Giants, 2005 Indians, etc, etc, etc,. And those are just theoretical examples. Imagine if those teams knew they had a much better chance of making the playoffs? They would have been more implied to make moves to improve their major league team. All things considered this makes it more fair to all 30 teams as it improves the likelihood of contention, limits the restrictions of playing in a tougher division, gives the Division winners a tactical advantage and it doesn't water down the playoffs one bit. 

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker