Admiral Ackbar (a.k.a. “Bud Selig”) reared his ugly head last week by announcing he was taking over the L.A. Dodgers. If only he would’ve warned Dodgers owner, Frank McCourt before he married his crazy, cheating wife that “IT’S A TRAP!!!,” we might have been able to avoid this whole mess.
But while the Dodgers ownership issue is far too complicated and boring to get into here, the Admiral also expressed a far more interesting idea—expanding the playoffs to include an additional Wild Card team in each league.
Ackbar mentioned two competing ideas for how it might work—a one-game playoff between the two non-division winners with the most wins, or a three-game series. Both have intriguing possibilities, but the three-game series option seems to have far more logistical complications with scheduling and travel, home field advantage (do you give the team with the better record the first two games at home only to send the deciding game to the lower seed’s ballpark?), and would it give a disadvantage to a division winner who has to sit and wait for the Wild Card round to finish?
A one-game system seems the more obvious choice. Adding Game 163 to the schedule will create fewer logistical or scheduling issues. Plus, we’ve already seen it twice in the last four years with the White Sox and Twins in 2008 and Tigers and Twins in 2009 facing off to determine the AL Central winner, producing two of the more memorable games of the decade (though I’d like to forget the 2009 result). It would also give a very justified advantage to the eventual division-winning opponent by most likely forcing the Wild Card winner to use it’s #1 starter, thus making him unavailable to pitch two games in the subsequent short series. And what better way to kick of the playoffs than with a Game-Seven-, one-and-done-, winner-take-all-type atmosphere is there in all of sports?
Most cynics (myself included) immediately see this as a thinly-veiled attempt to milk more revenue from MLB’s television partners by offering them more product. But who cares? More baseball fans would be treated to a regular season that is that much more exciting because of the heightened chance their team has of making the post-season. Even with an additional Wild Card team in each league, MLB would still have the lowest percentage of teams making the playoffs among the four major sport with 33%. The NFL allows 37.5% while the NBA and NHL grant over half their league members post-season berths.
Most baseball “purists” that balked at the original Wild Card incarnation established in 1995 are crying foul at this new idea. But just as they were forced to eat their words and admit the Wild Card system has been a wild success, they will be forced to admit they were wrong about this new system. To the “purists” I have just one thing to say—don’t fear change, you’ll probably like it.