Are One-Game Wild Card Playoff Games Good for Baseball?
Every single team that made the Major League Baseball postseason won 90 games this year.
In an effort to include more teams in the postseason, MLB added one more team and another Wild Card round. The new Wild Card round is only one game, and the winner takes on a division winner. However, the Wild Card round has raised eyebrows and questions all around the league.
Arguing whether the new Wild Card format is good or bad for baseball is relevant and there are arguments for both sides.
The new Wild Card format is good for baseball because it puts emphasis on the division winners. It's simple. If MLB teams don't want to play just one game to decide their destiny, win the division. If you win 90 games, win 95 games.
There's 162 total games in a season, and adding one more team to the playoffs adds intrigue to the season. Teams have to start off well in April, play solid baseball throughout the year, and finish the year hot in September.
For example, in April the Atlanta Braves were 17-9, and the Boston Red Sox went 18-8. During the year, the Los Angeles Dodgers went on a stretch during July and August where they won 15 straight road games. The Tampa Bay Rays went 21-5 in July. At the end of the season, the Cleveland Indians finished the year winning 10 straight games.
The new rule makes baseball relevant from April to September.
While teams are forced to always play their best baseball, the new Wild Card format makes teams strategize throughout the season. Managers have to decide when to limit aces, or when to rest hitters in their line-ups.The new format creates intriguing decisions for managers. For example, the Rays had to play a game 163 even before playing a first round Wild Card game. Manager Joe Maddon had to use his ace David Price against the Texas Rangers, and then had to throw Alex Cobb, in his first playoff start last night against the Indians.
However, there's a flip side to the argument. A one game Wild Card format isn't fair for visiting teams. The home team is at a slight advantage, as they have their fans yelling, chanting and waving towels for their team. Visiting teams don't get the chance to have a series on the road and at home, which could be the tipping point in a series.
The new Wild Card format is an imperfect system, and there is always going to managers, coaches and fans upset at a rule. The new rule may be good and bad for baseball, but it got teams to take the regular season for real and it got fans riled up while cheering their team in a meaningful game on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
After all, one game isn't just one game anymore.