Bud Selig is pushing forward with his second wild card plan for 2012. This has irked some baseball people who see it as a cash grab and a prolongation of the playoffs. We are noted Selig critics. We will admit this contains more than a faint whiff of “this time it counts” style reform. However, we support this idea, because it will improve MLB’s regular season.
MLB schedules to heighten division races. It’s why the divisions exist. It’s why the Red Sox and Yankees play 19 times and generally in the season’s last week. The wild card, as presently constituted, ruins two out of the six potential division races per season. Losing home-field advantage for the first two rounds is not much of a disincentive.
What baseball wants is the Red Sox and Yankees going balls out to win the AL East in those final series. What baseball gets, most often, is the Red Sox and Yankees or the equivalent teams setting their pitching rotations, both with playoff bids more or less clinched. Even if there is a “Wild Card Race” it’s anticlimactic with teams across the country, almost undoubtedly not playing each other.
A one game playoff is hard on a team. It could mean back to back flights. It means burning your best starter. It leaves your team prone to the quirks of a single game. Because it is hard it provides enough of a disincentive to the wild card to keep top teams competing for the division until the finish. Adding the second wild card team also keeps more teams in play.
Selig’s playoff reform adds two extra October games, but the major result from the second wild card should be more meaningful baseball played down the stretch in August and September. It’s hard to see how that is a bad thing for fans or for business.
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