Houston fans may have a problem, but the rest of us will now deal with MLB adding a second wildcard, which will likely result in a 1-game playoff between the two wildcards before advancing to the divisional round.
The purported reason is to make winning the division more meaningful. The real reason: probably more competitive games as teams on target for 87 wins will still be in the running late in the year. Of course, this move is coming off one of the most exciting conclusions to a season, which would have lacked that final day charm if Atlanta and St. Louis, and Boston and Tampa Bay, were merely closing out the string to see who would host the next game.
While this move would have benefitted Boston, and thus potentially robbed us of stories of video games and beer for this one season, I think the evidence is fairly mixed that it would actually favor big market teams. If you define Big Market as New York and Boston, then it’s actually a deterrent. 7 times in the last decade either Boston or New York was the AL Wildcard, and would have had to play a 1-game playoff to survive to the postseason. Anything can happen in a 1-game setting. Only twice did New York or Boston occupy the 5th slot, and one of those would have seen Boston facing New York (2008), with only one advancing anyway.
If you further define large market as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, plus the East Coast Powers of Boston and Philadelphia, then it would be pretty much a wash, assuming a 50% chance of advancing, over the last decade.
I’m not a fan of the move because I think the complication outweighs the added benefit, even though I think the chances of my small market team, Kansas City, sneaking in is improved. I’m not sure you can do a 3-game series, as it pushes other teams off schedule and that creates some uncertainty. And just wait until a 97 win team has to play a 85 win team in a one game setting. When is one win worth 12? When it comes in game 163.
[photo via Getty]