Author: Damian Mendieta
Met with equal acclaim and anguish, the new wild-card system heralds the coming of a new era for Major League Baseball. Barely a year ago, to the delight of St. Louis, but to the astonishment of America, the Cinderella-story Cardinals came out of nowhere to win the Fall Classic. Not to mention, a particular critter’s star power also helped them rally back against a stellar Phillies rotation and silence the big bat Brewers as they went on to upset the Rangers in the World Series. The success of St. Louis amazed fans everywhere, but also infuriated others who claimed that wild-cards have it too easy nowadays. They pointed to the fact that eight wild card winners have reached the World Series, four of which have won it all, in the last ten years.
Those opinions ignore the success of the underdog teams who play at their best when their best is needed. Regardless, Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to add one more wild card in each league will add excitement, pressure and glory to whichever teams advance deep into October. While the new wild card system makes it easier for teams to reach the playoffs, it also makes the division title even more coveted. Rather than risk the rest of the postseason on nine tie-breaking innings, the division winners can kick back and watch the wild cards duke it out.
As the tension and excitement of a whole elimination series are condensed into one game, fans will flock to the diamond and their screens all the more. Spectators also stand to gain a bigger bang for their buck from the new system. However, Friday’s Braves versus Cardinals game exemplified one of the fundamental flaws in a one game play-in situation. Braves’ Andrelton Simmons hit a pop fly toward shallow left field and shortstop Pete Kozma watched it fall on the grass. The crowd went wild, thinking the Braves were about to load the bases, but didn’t catch the umpire’s out call. For this heavily disputed call to happen during a playoff race is absolutely astounding and will probably stay on Atlanta’s mind for a while. Years from now, fans will probably say it was all over for the Braves and Chipper Jones after the automatic out.
The race to clinch playoff berths was also equally as exciting as Friday’s games. Potential division winners could no longer relax after earning postseason spots, as teams scrambled to stay ahead of the wild-card. The road for wild-cards has become tougher and division titles are more coveted throughout the league. No one wants to endure three rounds of elimination to reach the World Series, and if a wild-card does make it through again, then that just might prompt Commissioner Bud Selig to add even more teams into the postseason.
The new system is certainly a win for fans and a win for the league. If the new playoff system continues its success, then why not expand the playoff pool to 16 teams instead? Eight teams for each league would square off against each other, doing away with the need for a tie breaker game. Hopefully, the new wild card format will pave the way for further expansion of the post-season.
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