My love of baseball runs deep, but this new wild card format has got to go.
Some history: Beginning in 1994, baseball added a "wildcard" team to the playoffs along with the three division winners in each league. When the regular season ended, the "best" division winner played the wildcard team in a five game division series, with the two other division winners playing the other series.
This year, Commissioner Bud Selig added a second wild card to each league, enabling the three division champions to enjoy a bye in the first round. while the two wild cards will play a single elimination playoff game.
Having two wild card teams is one thing. Playing a one game playoff instead of a series is preposterous.
5) Lousy teams have a shot til' the end. With about 16 games to go this season the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals are neck and neck for two National League wild card spots. But the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are also in it, and they are losing teams. Baseball is not hockey, where the old joke is that they play 82 games to eliminate Winnipeg. Wild cards muddy the water, but they shouldn't produce sludge.
4) Adding a wild card game dilutes the product. A "one and done" wild card game detracts from division winners who complete a marathon 162 game season over five plus months. I grew to accept the idea that a wild card team could win the World Series, whether the Cardinals in 2011, the Boston Red Sox in 2004 or the Florida Marlins in 2003. But each of those teams had to win two series in order to win the pennant.
3) Having two wild cards means fewer sellers at the trade deadline and mass confusion. With two wild cards, can you imagine a team today making a white flag trade like the Chicago White Sox in 1997? In what likely seems a future trend, the only "net" sellers were the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, teams determined to jump start their death spiral in order to clean house and rebuild.
2) Baseball is the sport of relationships, not one night stands. While other sports like basketball and football feature two teams playing once, and only once, baseball is the only sport where teams play each other in a series, three days in a row.
Like any relationship, a series takes time to develop, and baseball is ideal because it's a non-contact sport. As much as I would enjoy a three game series between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, the combined physical toll on players and booze and brat consumption by fans would be devastating.
But I ask you, after a season of three game sets, why let a single baseball wild card game determine the playoff outcome?
1) Baseball is to be sipped like a fine wine, not guzzled like moonshine. Baseball is the only game without a clock. Stadium dimensions differ wildly. There is a stat for every situation. Having a methodical, dramatic baseball season come down to one game is akin to picking out a book and starting with the last chapter. We emerged (?) from the stench and gaudy home run numbers of the steroid era. Now the one game playoff seems perfectly teed up for our A.D.D. society.
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