When this was first announced, I had trouble making up my mind about it. Now that one actually exists, I can't say I'm a fan.
Here's how the new format works: Both leagues get an extra Wild Card team, meaning the two non-division winners with the best records technically make it into the playoffs. The two Wild Card winners then get to fight a head to head battle series to the death!!! What's at stake? The right to play against the division winners and possibly play spoiler in the playoffs, possibly on the way to a Pennant, and maybe even a World Series title! Why, think of all the wonderful random hijinks that could ensue from such a viciously competitive format!
There's one minor little detail Selig and gang forgot to take into account, though: The fact that the baseball season already lasts for 162 games which run for six solid months, and that doesn't even include the postseason. Taking it out any more would mean possibly dragging the entire baseball season out into November, a concept which the players' union would never allow. November means dropping temperatures which are the only real weather constant in the year's most unpredictable climate fury. In the northeast and northern midwest, where baseball has its most rabid followers, that also means contention with howling wind, uncomfortably cold rain, and possibly endless delays. Bad weather was in abundance during the otherwise memorable 2006 postseason, when the ruling supernatural force of the world appeared to decide that it wasn't very fond of either the Detroit Tigers or Saint Louis Cardinals, who played in the World Series that year.
There were only two ways Selig could possibly go about expanding the baseball postseason: The first was to kick back the regular season. The second was to half-ass it as much as possible. Bud Selig being Bud Selig, you can guess which one he chose. Therefore, instead of a five-game series in which the winner would begin a real gauntlet of a postseason, we saw a single-game "playoff." This was disturbingly similar to those play-in single games which serve as tiebreakers for teams which hotly fought for control of the division all season, except in those games, teams had to earn the right to be there by actually being tied with each other. Now, the single-game "playoff" means teams one team that missed the division title has an opportunity to lose one more game, nothing more. I couldn't help but get the feeling that for the four Wild Card teams - the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles in the AL, the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves in the NL - the regular season standings they had fought so hard for were suddenly moot. They put their energy and resources into a difficult divisional chase but just weren't good enough, so they fell back into a Wild Card spot which they were promptly robbed of by teams which may or may not have been worse.
We spent the postseason seeing both possible scenarios as to how such situations can play out. In the AL, we got the worst case scenario with the Rangers losing to an Orioles team which was promptly upended in the real playoffs by a Yankees team with no pitching and bored players. The NL played out more the way the commissioner probably hoped, with the Saint Louis Cardinals upsetting the Braves and launching a near-Cinderella story when the twelfth clock chime was finally heard in game seven of the NLCS, awarding the Pennant to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants.
The new Wild Card format is nothing but a common play-in. If Bud Selig wants to be serious about it, he'll have to swallow his pride and surrender a few games of the regular season - he can safely knock it back to about 156 games by my own estimation - and stretch out the playoffs so the Wild Cards can have a real, honest series. There's a very famous expression about baseball. I can't remember who said it, but the quip says every team is going to win a third of its games and lose a third of its games; it's what they do in the last third that counts. It's a shame to think that after that third that counts, a team can barely sneak into the playoffs now and have that third totally destroyed in one game.
It is just one more expansion of the playoff structure in order to generate more revenue. When the divisional playoffs began, they were the best of five. Then, the argument that the World Series was seven was used to expand them to seven. Then there was the expansion to three divisions and including the wild card. Now, the wild card is a one game playoff and it will not be long before it will be expanded to a three game playoff. Remember that the famous playoff between the Dodgers and Giants in … more