To those of you who make such a big hairy deal about baseball’s Wild Card format, I’d like to remind you that the 2008 season has become still another season where it isn’t necessary. The integrity that only MLB had over the other “big 3” (NFL, NBA, NHL) of team sports by requiring its teams to win and finish first in order to advance to the post-season need not be sacrificed.
There it was, Thursday September 25, the start of the last 4 days of the 2008 regular season (barring Monday make-up games). There it was that of MLB’s six division races, only TWO had been officially clinched. Time to take the “HALF FULL” approach. That means that after more than 155 games for every team, four of the six races still had not been decided. That is plenty of excitement. Instead, the media makes the “race” for which teams finish second as important if not more important than who will finish first. That is not right. You should have to win in order to win.
Look at the National League situation. The Brewers had every opportunity until they were swept by the Cubs fair and square. It would be another post-season insult if they get a “second chance” and make the playoffs. Let alone that it would mean the Cubs would not be properly rewarded for having the best record in the National League. How is that in the “best interests of the game” that rulings are supposedly made based on? Or, if the Brewers fall out, it would then destroy one of the best races ever. If both the Mets and Phillies get in, then it would destroy a highly dramatic last day or two of the season and make it almost meaningless.
Look at the American League. The Red Sox had 6 games against Tampa in September and couldn’t get it done. Defending champs or not, why do they deserve the SAME opportunity as the Rays? Suppose the White Sox and Twins were both ahead of Boston in the Wild Card “race”. The nation would have been seriously deprived of the drama of Minnesota’s sweep of the White Sox with everything on the line.
I could document the races that were taken away from us in the years we have been stuck with this Wild Card stuff, but until something is done to correct this, we will have to suffer with the consequences of destroyed races for division titles that might have been.
But that isn’t the only problem. The current format carries an impact into the future. Under the old format (which I am trying to get back), the Brewers would have been eliminated a week ago. They could have been looking at their young players and giving some lesser used pitchers a shot. Many a “next year” has been shaped for a team that got a tremendous September breakthrough from a player they just recalled or who didn’t play much at all during the season to that point. Instead, the Brewers are using their “same” players who couldn’t beat the Cubs, and could suffer in terms of analysis of their personnel for the coming season because of it.
So, you ask, how would I change the situation? I have one thought for “if we have to” have a Wild Card, and another total solution to get rid of it forever.
If we must have it, and I’ll never say we must, then it should be done by burying the Wild Card team’s chances a lot more than now. First thing I would do is not allow the Wild Card teams ANY home games in the post-season. This increases the challenge for them to step up. Imagine having to win an entire series in Minnesota, Tampa, or Wrigley Field this year. But I would give a team credit for winning every road game in order to advance. I just don’t see it happening. In addition, this system brings extra reward to the team which finishes with the best record in the League. They wouldn’t have to travel for at least one week, and their fans would be rewarded with more chances to see them.
The better solution, in my opinion, is to eliminate this Wild Card stuff all together. I see two possibilities for post-season play if only this would happen.
One is to give the team with the best record a week off to rest and reset their pitching, and let the 2 other division winners play at best of 5 series. But with all of the TV dollars out there, I am realistic enough to know this won’t happen.
Therefore, there is only one solution that makes sense. And makes money. Expand the American League by two more teams. Even though I am not big on expansion either, this would allow for both leagues to create four divisions with four teams each. From there, you got it. Seed the FOUR first place teams based on record 1 through 4 and you have the same amount of post-season games as we currently do. With one major difference. It would be ALL first place teams who truly deserve to be there. They won it fair and square. First place should still mean everything.
What do you think?