It could be official as soon as today that Major League Baseball will add an extra wild-card team to both the American and National League for the 2012 season and I love it!
Under the current system there are 4 teams that make up the postseason, three divisional winners and one wild-card team. The new set-up would allow an extra team to make the playoffs where there would then be a one game playoff between the two wildcard teams with the winner moving on to play the division champion with the best record. The other two division title winners would then take on each other.
The thought behind the extra team is purely reward…
Since 1995, five wild-card team have won the World Series and ten wild-card teams have won a pennant. That number seems way too high. People around the game think winning a division and having a great season should come with more advantages heading into the second season. The new system would allow just that. Now if a team wins their division they get a first round bye and an extra couple of days to get their pitching rotation correct while the two wild-card teams play in the must win game to advance. Of course anything can happen in one game and one would think that any skipper would surely use their best available pitcher to advance to the second round, meaning a wild-card race would not be around early in a series to face a division winner. A wild-card teams bullpen could also be exhausted coming into the second round depending what happens in the first game as well.
The current system also prohibits two teams in the same division facing each other in the first round of the postseason. Starting in 2012, two teams in the same division can take each other on for a chance to advance to the leagues championship series. In fact three teams from one division can actually make the playoffs starting this season.
Now I know what the haters are saying!
They are going on and on about how great the last day of the season was last year. With this new format nothing like that can ever happen again. And they are partially right. The last day of the 2011 regular season was phenomenal. Evan Longoria knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs when he hit a game winning homer against the Yankees and Baltimore beating Boston was great. There was also the Braves choking their postseason chances away in the NL only to see the Cardinals make it and then win it all. It was awesome and under the new system the drama would not have been present because the Rays, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves would have all made it in before those games were even played. But that situation happens once in a life time. I have been watching baseball my entire existence and especially since the wild-card era has started and what happened on the last day last season has never happened before. So what are the odds that it will happen again anytime soon? Not good!
I would rather think about what the extra playoff team will do for the fan bases around the game. Baseball is too long. Playing 162 games a season is ridiculous. Now don’t get me wrong, I like it but I think the majority of people tune out once NFL training camp starts if their MLB team is out of it. Think about how many times the Tigers have been 10 plus games back in August and all you could think about was when does Michigan, Michigan State and the Lions kick off? This extra team helps. It should keep people interested, longer which is great for the fans and great for the league.
I love playoff baseball, so I think extra meaningful games after sitting through so many empty ones is a great thing. Think back to 2009. Yeah I know you don’t want to, but do it anyway. Detroit and Minnesota were forced to play in game 163 after blowing a 3 game lead with 4 to play. Of course we all know what happened in that game and even though the Tigers should have never been in that situation and it could have been the most agonizing loss in Detroit sports history, it was great drama and a great game. Now every year we are guaranteed at least two of those.
People constantly rip on baseball for getting things wrong and I agree with a lot of those points. However this idea, another playoff team just seems so right!