Photo courtesy of SB Nation
By: Ross Sutton
First and foremost, I believe it was great that the MLB added the Wild Card in 1994, as well as a second Wild Card in 2012. Both Wild Cards make it more exciting for teams that would not have a chance to make the playoffs otherwise, and it makes it harder to win the World Series, which I think is a good thing. It is also good that a Wild Card team now has a harder route to the World Series since they can lose in the Wild Card round. That being said, I believe this season has already shown us a flaw in the current system in place. Currently, the Yankees and Red Sox are tied for the best record in the MLB, and are in the same division. This makes me nervous, not because I am a Yankee fan and would be upset if the Yankees had one of the top three records in the MLB and still had to win in a one-game playoff in order to advance, but because that simply is not fair, regardless of what teams are in the Wild Card game.
What if this season, the Yankees and Red Sox both continue to dominate and finish with let’s say, the second and third best records in the MLB. To show I’m not just being biased towards the Yankees, I will defend the Red Sox in this scenario. Let’s say the Red Sox are put in the unair situation of having to play in the one-game playoff against a much lesser team that they finished ahead of by six games. Would it be good for the MLB if the lesser team upsets the Red Sox in the one-game playoff and advances to the ALDS? I don’t think so. Therefore, I believe that the MLB should tweak the current Wild Card playoff format in the following way:
For example, if the Red Sox and Angels are the two Wild Card teams, but the Red Sox, having a top three record in the MLB in this hypothetical scenario, finish with a record better than the Angels, then the Angels must beat the Red Sox twice in a row in order to advance. As for the Red Sox, they get two chances to beat the Angels, and if they win either of the two games, then they advance to the ALDS.
I think that this would be a positive change for the game because it is unfair that the second Wild Card team has just as good of a chance to advance to the next round as the first Wild Card team, despite the fact that the first Wild Card team has a better record. I realize this has not been an issue in the past where two teams in one division have had two of the top three records in the MLB, but I think it would be smart for the MLB to protect themselves from backlash if this were to occur, like it could this year. It would also be good for the league if there was a distinct advantage of being the first Wild Card team. Another way of justifying the second Wild Card team having to beat the first Wild Card team twice in a row is that by having to win two games in a row, the second Wild Card team is making up for the fact that they finished with a record at least one game worse than the first Wild Card team. For example, if after the Wild Card round, one team has a season total of 96 wins and the other team has a total of 90 wins, why should the team with 90 wins advance even if they beat the team with 96 wins in a one-game playoff? I love the fact that the MLB has two Wild Card teams from each league with an exciting Wild Card round that goes along with it, but I would love it even more if the MLB adopted this change to the current playoff format.
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