Is Another Wild Card Better for Baseball?


The Major League Baseball playoffs start this Friday with a Wild Card playoff game to go to the divisional series. To give it perspective it is like the play-in game in the new March Madness brackets. If you are not familiar with the new set up in the MLB the two Wild Card teams play a one-game series at the stadium of the team with the better record. Whoever wins that game then moves on to play the highest seed in their respective league regardless of if they are in the same division. So, the Rangers could play the A’s or the Yankees could play the Orioles.

When it was announced that there would be another Wild Card spot added on the AL and NL sides of the playoffs fans were filled with joy. Their team had a greater chance of making the playoffs. But is it really that good? Sure, some can say it leaves an opening for the smaller teams to make a run in the playoffs but they already do that. Look at the Athletics, Orioles, and Rays. All three were contending for playoff spots this year and more than likely two of them will make it.

Others can say it adds excitement for the end of September playoff stretch. But don’t we already have excitement with the division championships up for grabs? The Yankees and Orioles are neck and neck as are the Rangers and Athletics. Are we going to get to the point where it is like the NBA? Where teams with a .500 record or worse can stumble into postseason play. There are already one-game playoffs every couple of years to decide division champions and/or Wild Card winners. This just adds more one-game playoffs to the mix. Sure, that sounds like March Madness where upsets can happen and the ‘Davids’ of the MLB can make a VCU-esque push. But baseball is vastly different from basketball. One of the most important players on the field can only throw every five days (four at best).

My feeling is that adding the game does add excitement but it puts the Wild Card teams at a greater disadvantage than they are already at playing away at the top seed. Before they travel to play the top team they have to make some very important decisions. Do you throw your ace and hopefully ensure a win in the Wild Card round or do you throw your number two or three guy in the rotation and save your ace for game one of the divisional series (if you get there)? Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers or the Washington Nationals wait with their stacked pitching staffs. Not to mention these Wild Card teams may have to win a one-game playoff just to get to the Wild Card game. One-game playoffs (especially more than one) can create lopsided pitching match ups in the later rounds.

Yeah, I understand that pitching is only one aspect of the game of baseball. But, it is probably the most important aspect with hitting as a close second. How many of the top teams (besides probably the Yankees) win their games in shootouts with scores like 12-8 or 14-10? And the Yankees still have a pretty respectable rotation. The Rangers have one of the top offenses but they also have one of the best rotations in baseball. The A’s are a prime example of great pitching and timely hitting breeding success. They feed off of their great pitching all game and then manufacture runs. If their rotation gets messed up they could possibly be swept in the ALDS should they make it that far.

This is only the first year of the two-team Wild Card system so I guess we will see how it unfolds. Who knows maybe the Los Angeles Angels will catch fire, steal a Wild Card spot, and streak all the way to the World Series. It would be great to see two Wild Card teams in the World Series…where home field is decided by an All-Star game. But that argument is for another day.

Do you like the idea of two Wild Card teams? Should the playoffs continue with four teams? Eight teams? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.

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