So Major League Baseball will have 10 teams in the playoffs in October after adding a second wild card team in each league. I like this move for a variety of reasons.
It puts a real premium on winning the division championship and no longer will a late-season game, say between the top two teams in the American League East, not mean much because both squads will be in the playoffs anyway. Now a division that is so tough like the AL East can get a third team into the postseason.
A division winner will now get the benefit of at least two days off to rest its injured players and set up its postseason pitching rotation. This is a deserved reward for the best team in a division over a long 162-game season.
The two wild card teams, the fourth and fifth seeds in each league, will now meet in a one-game playoff for the right to take on a top seed in a best-of-five division series. I like the drama we will see with a one-and-done scenario. If you think about how exciting one game playoffs have been over the years, we now will basically get two of those every October.
Some will contend that it’s not fair to play 162 games and then have it come down to one game to advance in the playoffs, but sports are not fair. The best team or teams don’t always win championships, we know that. Was it fair that the New York Giants just won the Super Bowl? The Giants’ 9-7 record ranked tied for 10th-best in the NFL this year, and did you know the Giants were outscored by their opponents in the regular season? Yet they are Super Bowl champs.
In a story I wrote in November, I went back and looked at the last 10 years and noted that in the AL, the wild card team averaged 95.2 wins per season. Had there been a second wild card team in those 10 years, that team would have averaged 90.3 wins per year.
If there had been a second wild card in baseball last year, it is true that the last-night regular season drama would not have happened, but many years there will be drama to get that fifth and final playoff spot. There is almost always a chase and drama late in the year for the final playoff spots.
In fact, seven times over the last 10 years, the second wild card team would have been two games or less ahead of the next-winningest club. Twice in the last 10 years, two clubs would have tied for that final playoff spot. So there will likely be a real exciting race for that final playoff spot most seasons.
More teams will now be alive for a playoff berth longer into the season and that is a good thing to me. While no one is thinking this could be good for the Orioles right now with the team’s losing history, having to win five fewer games does benefit all the teams that are looking to get good enough to play in October.
For the first time ever in baseball, a third-place team could win the World Series. But I can live with that and it’s been that way for a long time in the other major sports. It’s not a perfect system but having two wild card teams and one-game playoff between them is good for the sport in my opinion.
By the way, MLB still sends a lower percentage of its teams to the postseason than the other major sports leagues.
MLB: 10 of 30 make playoffs for 33.3 percent.
NFL: 12 of 32 make playoffs for 37.5 percent.
NBA: 16 of 30 make playoffs for 53.3 percent.
NHL: 16 of 30 make playoffs for 53.3 percent.
It’s a bit of a stretch to put it quite this way, but if you root for a team that can win half its games, if that team could add just one win per month to that for an 87-win total, the club could be very much in contention for a playoff spot deep into most seasons.
Maybe there will be a time in the future when an Orioles team takes advantage of the extra playoff berth in the AL.
What is your take?: Do you like having an extra playoff team in each league? Does the drama of a one-game playoff offset any unfairness you may see in a one-and-done scenario? Should MLB continue to tweak this system? Should MLB just have left the playoff system as it was?