Not Wild About Extra Cards

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mccutchenI’ve been thinking about the new playoff setup, with 10 teams total now making the post-season.

For every wildcard we add, the assumption among many is, more drama is “added.”

But can’t we claim that for every added drama, one is taken away?

The Pittsburgh/St. Louis race carries a lot less drama for me because both teams are basically in (the loser will be a wildcard). Yes, that team has to play in the one-game wildcard round, but they’re still IN the playoffs.

Same goes for the AL West with Oakland/Texas.

Look at how many races are essentially over (most of them).

Now, just for fun, I have “reconstructed” the 1980s divisions.  You know, the old four-division format.

I know the schedules would be different and they might not line up exactly the same way now, but play along with me for a second.

Boston/Detroit would be within 3 games of each other in the AL East.

Texas/Oakland would be within a half-a-game of each other in the AL West.

Pittsburgh/St. Louis would be within one-and-a-half games of each other in the NL East.

Atlanta/Dodgers would be within 2 games of each other in the NL West.

So with just four playoff teams under that alignment, we would have compelling races in 100% them.

Under the new alignment, how many of the EIGHT races are truly interesting?

Look, I get why baseball keeps adding playoff teams and rounds — money.  I am not naive.  And the latest round was added in part to make it more difficult on the wildcard teams to go all the way and to give teams more incentive to win their division.

But it still feels like two wrongs (the original wildcard round two decades ago and then the extra round last year) trying to make a right.

This game is all about the long haul, the grind, the 6-month journey.  Until you get to the end.  Then it becomes a total crapshoot.

And as a life-long fan, I miss the old true division races — winner gets to October, loser goes home.  Period.


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  • David Keating

    I cannot agree with you more. MLB move to the six division (and one wildcard) scheme, is one of their biggest mistakes. I understand the idea of putting the divisions in a more geographical view, Cincinnati and Atlanta were in the old NL West. But as far as the playoff and division races goes, it was a complete bust. The playoff races were so much more fun in the 70's and 80's then they are now. Yes, you had the occasional runaways, the White Sox in 1983 comes to mind. But the other three races were fun to watch.
    My all time favorite was 1987, when Toronto went into the final weekend leading Detroit by 1 game, with the three game set in Detroit. The Tigers swept the series and the division title. Games 2 and 3 were on network TV and was baseball at its best for the players and the fans.
    The more they screw up the game the more they take us away from days like that. It could be worse, neither one of the two divisions still in doubt will spend the last weekend playing interleague ball. Both divisions will be decided the right way, with divisional play. I think the nightmare scenario is to have a division decided because you have to play a team from the other league.