Since it has been made (virtually) official, I have been asked many times what my thoughts are about the extra Wild Card spot for 2012.
Here is a quick summary:
Do I like it? Yes.
Do I think the concept is good? Yes.
Do I think the way that it will be implemented is good? No. Not even close.
Let me explain. I like the idea of another Wild Card team making the playoffs for two reasons. 1) it gives other teams a chance, especially those stuck in the East divisions. The Yankees and Red Sox are obviously beasts, and now Tampa has turned into one as well. In the NL East, all of a sudden Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, and Miami are power clubs. 2) it gives teams more incentive to win their Division. Suddenly a Division title means something again.
But here’s the kicker. I hate the Wild Card “playoff series”. A one-game playoff? That’s it? That is the incentive for 162 games of hard work?
Yes I get it. MLB wants to add more drama wherever possible. A one-game playoff does that. There is nothing more exciting than a win-or-go-home scenario. It’s like having two guaranteed game 7’s every year!
But is it fair? I think not. It’s not fair to the two Wild Card teams, and it’s certainly not fair to the Division champions. Baseball is a team sport and a sport built on longevity. The season is 162 games long. It consists of 6 months of three and four game series to determine the best teams. Now, one game will decide the first round? Anything can happen in one game. Baseball prides itself on the “series” concept of the schedule, and now, in the most important part of the season, they’re taking that away.
It’s also not fair to the Division champs because they should get a reward for winning the Division. That reward should be a few days of rest and the chance to face the winner of the Wild Card round. That winner should be tired and weak from having to play extra games. But since they only have to play one extra game, there isn’t much of an advantage. The winner will still be able to throw their #2 starter out for game 1 of the Division Series, instead of possibly their fourth. That means Toronto, if they get in and win, can start Brandon Morrow instead of Brett Cecil, the Angels can start C.J. Wilson instead of Ervin Santana, or the Red Sox can start Josh Beckett instead of Alfredo Aceves. Those are HUGE advantages.
If the Wild Card round was a 3-game series I would be in love with it. As it stands, I am now rooting for the Jays to earn the second Wild Card, which might not even bring a home playoff game.
The incentive isn’t as great as it should be.