Monday, September 28, 2009

Fixing The Wild Card

There has been some talk floating around this September regarding ideas to add a second wild card spot to both leagues.

When I first heard of any idea involving changing baseball's playoff format, I was not in favor of it. Hey, maybe I don't like change. Neither do a great many fans of the game.

But after a dismal September in terms of pennant races, I am beginning to think that another wild card team would not be such a bad idea.

The NFL season is still young, only wrapping up week three. Yet, already, the interest of most cities has turned away from the diamond and to the gridiron. Even the Giants and the Jets have been the main talk of baseball-happy New York over the cruising Yankees and the dismal Mets.

Now, I am sure teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and maybe even the Rockies will reclaim their respective town's attention once October finally gets here; but why lose the September ratings in towns such as San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago?

A greater chance to get into the playoffs would mean a longer interest in those teams five or six games out of the wild card.

In addition, many fans and experts alike believe that there is not enough incentive to win the division, and that many teams are happy simply settling for the wild card spot.

This is, of course, bad for competition. There needs to be a greater sense of urgency to win for teams in August and September.

Though I cannot claim my solution to be completely original, what it is is a combination of everything I have heard.

As I mentioned, there would be two wild card teams from both the American and National League. Those two teams would then play each other to see who advances to play the team with the best record in each respective league.

For example, if the season were to end today, the Red Sox would play a series against the Rangers in the American League, and the Rockies would play the Braves in the National League.

After those series are finished, the rest of the playoffs would proceed as they do now. The Red Sox would go on to play the Angels or the Rangers would play the Yankees, while the winner of the Colorado and Atlanta series would play the Dodgers.

Using this year as an example, the American League wild card race would still consist of only Boston and Texas. However, over in the National League, San Francisco, Florida, and the Chicago Cubs would each be at least within four games of getting to the playoffs, as opposed to within six under the current format.

The question now becomes how long the extra series would be.

Most people would automatically suggest a a best of three series. It would make sense, seeing as how the Division Series is a best of five, and the Championship and World Series both consist of a best of seven.

However, I believe that, for the sake of not having the World Series go deeper into November, it should simply be a one game series.

It could be called the "AL and NL Wild Card Series" or, more appropriately, "The AL and NL Wild Card Games" and could be played on the Monday following the season, with one game starting at four o'clock and another starting at eight.

In addition, this would force all wild card teams to use their best starting pitcher for the one game playoff, thus giving the winning teams a disadvantage once they advance to the Division Series.

This model would serve as a solution to both lower ratings in cities not in the pennant race, and would certainly add to each team's will to win the most games possible.

While it may seem weird at first, I believe that this is very necessary for the sake of Major League Baseball.

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