This is Why MLB's New Wild-Card Format is Dumb
MLB’s divisional alignment already stacks the deck against good teams in tough divisions. The addition of a second Wild-Card will penalize those teams even more by forcing them to play one-game, do-or-die “series” against less-deserving teams. Previously, slightly-above-average Wild-Card teams often benefitted from shorter series against the league’s best teams. That trend will continue. But now, the truly deserving Wild-Card teams (generally speaking, the Red Sox) will be thrown into one-game death matches against far inferior competition.
Let’s take a selective look at how the new format would have played out in previous years, dating back to 2004: (I’m assuming that the two Wild-Cards can both come from the same division, though that hasn’t been made clear yet. If that’s not the case, and the second Wild-Card team must come from another division, then, in some cases, these deltas would be even larger.)
In 2004, the World Champion, 98-win Red Sox, a team with the third most wins in baseball, would have been forced to play the 91-win As in a one-game playoff.
In 2005, the 88-win Phillies would have made the “playoffs” and played the 89-win Astros (fair, but interesting).
In 2006, the AL Champion, 95-win Tigers would have played the 90-win White Sox in a one-game playoff despite having finished five games ahead in the regular season standings. The 85-win Phillies would have played the 88-win Dodgers in a one-game playoff.
In 2007, the 94-win Yankees would have played either the 88-win Tigers or Mariners in a one-game playoff.
In 2008, the 95-win Red Sox would have played the 89-win Yankees in a one-game playoff despite having finished six games ahead in the regular season.
In 2009, the 92-win Rockies would have played the 88-win Giants in a one-game playoff despite having finished four games ahead in the regular season.
In 2010, the 95-win Yankees would have played the 89-win Red Sox in a one-game playoff despite having finished six games ahead in the regular season.
Interestingly, the Phillies would have made the playoffs in both 2005 and 2006, something that would have now given them seven straight postseason births. But did the 85-win 2006 Phillies team really deserve to make the playoffs? No.
What’s worse, as you see, not only can teams who finish seven or eight games behind get the chance to win a one-game playoff against far superior competition, but intra-divisional rivals could (assuming two Wild Cards can come from same division) now square off in one-game playoffs despite being separated by as many as six games in the standings. How, in the world, is that fair?
Sure, this new alignment will create a dramatic scenario for every one it does away with, but it severely penalizes good teams in good divisions. And yes, it could give a 90-win second place team, like the 2006 White Sox, a chance to dance– however, it will more often than not give 87, 88-win teams opportunities to knock off 95-win teams in a one-game playoff. That completely minimizes the already watered down 162-game season. Dumb.