In 2012, the MLB changed its playoff format (thank you Bud Selig) to include two Wild Card teams in each league, with those clubs playing each other in a one-game playoff for the right to move on to the Division Series. Let’s turn the clock back to 2012. The two Wild Card AL teams were the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers with the Orioles finishing the regular season tied with the Rangers. If there was only one Wild Card team they still would have had a playoff game anyway. The Orioles defeated the Rangers and then lost to the Yankees. The two Wild Card NL teams were the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlantic Braves with the Braves being the first Wild Card team. The second Wild Card Cardinals went on to defeat the Braves and then the Nationals before losing to the eventual World Series Champion Giants. This year the Rays, after beating the Rangers to break a tie for the second Wild Card spot, went on to defeat the first Wild Card Cleveland Indians and now will meet the Boston Red Sox in a five-game Division Series. The second Wild Card Reds were eliminated by the first Wild Card Pirates who now will play the Cardinals.
I will now look at what I feel are the benefits of increasing the number of teams that enter the playoffs from eight to ten, which include in each league the three Divisional winners and two Wild Card teams. Since every year will now guarantee at least two one-game playoffs, the increased drama and excitement will be felt by the fans. If you watched the two one-game Wild Card playoff games this year in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the fans treated their games as if they were the seventh game of the World Series. Baseball was again relevant in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The fact that two extra teams are added will keep more teams in the chase for a longer period of time. In the AL this year, six teams stayed in contention for the two Wild Card spots. These teams included the unlikely Kansas City Royals who were in the hunt until the last week of the season. It would be great to see the Royal fans fill Kaufmann Stadium, the way they did in the days of George Brett, shouting like the Pirate fans did this year. Since no team wants to have their entire season dependent on a one-game playoff, winning the Division Title is now a top priority. General Manager Brian Cashman referring to 2010 said, “I’m not taking away from Tampa Bay’s Eastern Division title, but we didn’t try to win the division. We tried to line ourselves up for the playoffs and that worked. We wound up sweeping Minnesota.” In the history of the Wild Card format (since 1995), the AL Wild Card team has come from the Eastern Division 13 out of 17 years (the Red Sox 7 times and the Yankees 4 times).With the addition of the second Wild Card team, the other two Divisions will now have more teams in the playoffs.
However, there are of course critics to the new format. One argument put forth by critics is it is not fair that a 94–win team that claims the first Wild-card spot should have its season dependent on a one-game playoff against a second Wild Card team with only 85 wins. Detractors argue that if too many teams make the playoffs it diminishes the value of the regular season. Of course, the old-time traditional baseball fan is against any change to the way baseball was from 1903 to 1960 (two leagues, eight teams in each league, two pennant winners playing in the World Series).
In the 18 seasons since the Wild Card became part of baseball (1995-2012), 9 Wild Card teams have been to the World Series and five have won. Can you name them? On the other hand, only three times has the team with the best regular-season record won the World Series. Can you name these teams?
I ask the following question: What will the traditional old-time baseball fan say if a second Wild Card team was to win the World Series?
|Stan The Stats Man said…
Marty: Thank you again for all your comments and information you send me. I like to begin with a quote from the movie about Wall Street “Greed is good”. I really don’t believe that statement but it may apply to the owners of the MLB teams. Yes, they are greedy and everything you said about their greed is true. However, i believe in this case indirectly their greed is good for the fans and small market teams. Did you see how excited the fans were in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I expect in the future more small market teams will appear in the playoffs. I can site many other positives of the new playoff system. Best Wishes, Stan
October 5, 2013 03:16:16
|Martin Cobern said…
Stan: I am one of the mossbacks who don’t like this change, but it is probably necessary. With the unbalanced schedules and interleague play designed with no regard for fairness (only gate receipts)some very qualified teams may be shut out. This is a band aid on a foolish structure. Of course, it has the added advantage of giving MLB two more postseason games to sell. The greed of the owners has turned the American pastime into another plaything of the rich. (See: Ticket prices.)
October 5, 2013 09:27:12