Sunday, March 4, 2012

WIld Cards

Apparently baseball has decided to add an additional wild card in each league. Somehow, they claim this will make playoffs more exciting, or pennant races more exciting, or rewards division winners, or includes more teams, or something. I say, let's call a spade a spade. The real reason is obvious. This new rule change all but guarantees that both the Yankees and Red Sox will qualify for the playoffs every year. That greatly increases the likelihood of the Yankees playing the Red Sox in the playoffs. I took a look at the past ten seasons. The Yankees and Red Sox would have combined to take half of the additional wild card spots. In the other five seasons, both of them legitimately qualified. Of those seasons, there would have been only one postseason which did not include both teams.

I actually like that baseball has a few franchises which are always among the best in the league. Despite all the grumblings about the elite teams, a variety of teams actually win the World Series in any given season. One of the biggest drawbacks of such a playoff system is that it fails to distinguish the difference between say the 2011 Red Sox and the 2004 Red Sox. Last season's incarnation had a terrible start to the season, climbed to be a near lock for the Wild Card, and finished a collapse on the last day of the season. The 2004 Red Sox won 6 more games than the West and Central Division champions, beat one of them in the division series, and recovered from a 3-0 hole against their division rival. Ultimately, they won the World Series.

Such a team deserves the championship. That's how a playoff system should be designed. The current format is actually pretty good for that. If you want to make the playoffs, you have to win your division. One team that has a really good year without winning the division gets in. I can't remember any recent champions who were not deserving nor were any deserving teams excluded. I still prefer the old two division format. Mainly, it makes September games more meaningful. Alas, it's harder to take MLB seriously with the new format. I'll just have to settle for what interesting event may happen during any given game.

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