Ken Rosenthal has reported that Major League Baseball will add two more Wild Card playoff spots, one per league, this season. This means that now there will be a total of 10 playoff teams come October- three division winners and two wild card teams per league. There were rumors this was going to happen in 2013, but Selig decided it was better to implement the new system now.
There will not be an extra series between the two wild card teams. Instead, there will be a one-game playoff between the two wild cards, with the winner becoming one of the final four playoff seeds for the traditional divisional round. In some cases this seems like an excellent idea, and in others it doesn’t.
Those who want the extra two wild card teams rely on the point that winning your division is very important. Yankees GM Brain Cashman recently came out and said that in 2010 the Yankees didn’t play to win the division, and basically conceded it to the Tampa Bay Rays. The extra wild card spot eliminates this and forces you to use your best pitcher in a one game playoff. One of the three division winners are going to benefit greatly off of this. They’re going to face a team that has used their ace, and will most likely use one time over the course of a five game series like the divisional series.
The people who disagree with the addition of the extra playoff spot believe that the move is motivated by money, akin to the way college football adds bowl games at the drop of a hat. By adding an extra team to the playoffs, more revenue is generated for the league. Major League Baseball is a business. All sports leagues are, but when business is hurting your league that’s when the fans get unhappy. By adding the extra Wild Card team the MLB is damaging their product. There are instances where adding an extra Wild Card in each league is useful. Like when the two Wild Card teams are within two games. Otherwise the situation is a team with about 95 wins an the other has 85 wins and the 85 win team wins that’s just not fair. This allows an inferior team into the divisional round where they can possible win it all.
That can happen even with the playoff system we have now. For those of you who followed my stories during the playoffs, you’ve seen me mention how much of a crapshoot the postseason can be. The Cardinals beat the best team in baseball, and then two other division winners en route to their 11th World Series title. They weren’t the best team in baseball last year; and yet, they won it all. Realigning the leagues and playoffs altogether makes the most sense.
My own opinion is aligned with those who believe that the extra playoff spot is damages the league’s product. I read an interesting point today that I agreed with completely: MLB teams play 162 games a year during the regular season. That should be enough to determine who gets to go to the playoffs and who doesn’t. Keep worrying about the money and not the product on the field Bud. Eventually it’s going to drive the fans away.