Don't fall for Major League Baseball trying to tell you it improved things by "expanding" its playoffs. They'd have you believe it's a wonderful thing. Don't listen to them.
Under a new rule change, 2012 will be the first year both leagues receive two wild cards. Those two teams will be forced to play a one-game series to determine who goes on to face a division winner. MLB is claiming this will give another team and market a chance to "experience playoff baseball." I guess, if that's what you want to call it. But can one game really be considered a playoff "experience"?
I understand where fans might think this is a good idea. "Another team has a chance to win the World Series," they'll say. "It gives more meaning to winning the division," they'll add, misguidedly.
The "second" wild card team doesn't deserve a chance to win the World Series. It's that simple. That's why they play 162 games during the regular season - so we can determine who the better team is. One non-division winner is all that is needed. I don't know what was wrong with the current system but there's no reason to change it.
Scenario: The Yankees win 103 games, Boston wins 102 to win the wild card. Let's say the Twins are the second wild card team and won 84 games. Now in the one-game playoff situation to follows, the Red Sox get a horrible start from its fifth starter, who was up in the rotation, and lose to the Twins, 5-4. The Twins now move on and lose in the next round when they face the Yankees.
In that make-belive scenario, who wins? Certainly the Twins fan base, of course, for "getting in the playoffs" and extending its season. But what about the Red Sox fans? What about the fact that in that scenario, the Red Sox were 18 games better? Now a worse team is moving on?
We could even go as far as saying the Twins (still in the make believe scenario) win the whole thing. That still doesn't fly with me. Certainly, they would have had an amazing run to the title. But that doesn't change the fact they were the fifth-best team in the American League.
How about a real-life scenario - last year the Red Sox and Braves finished the season with what will be remembered as two of the biggest choke jobs in Major League history. Under the new rules, both of those teams would have gotten to play in a one-game "playoff." Neither the 2011 Braves or Red Sox deserved to have a shot to win the World Series after those collapses. They didn't earn the right to be there.
I'm interested in seeing the best teams playing for the championship. A team that could potentially finish third in its own division doesn't belong in the Major League Baseball playoffs. A team that proved to be better over 162 games is what I'm looking for. Baseball has never been about an anything-can-happen, one-game situation. It's not the NFL, and should stop trying to copy it.
MLB is trying to play catch up with the other major sports, who reap the benefits of a larger playoff scene. While the NFL may have 12 teams in its playoffs, compared to the 10 MLB is now claiming, there still isn't close to the same number of games. There are only 11 games in the NFL playoffs. Baseball takes care of 11 games in the first two days of action.
Saying the division winner is now at a greater advantage with the new changes doesn't make sense either. The advantage is still the same. You win the division, you automatically get in, and you might play a wild card team in the first round. Just as it still is. Now there's just another team in there, a team that should be there.
I know the past 10 years of Major League Baseball has made me cynical towards the league, but it just continues to be one thing after another. And I didn't even bring up the whole Ryan Braun suspension-overturned fiasco.
There wasn't anything wrong with the current playoff system. MLB plays too many regular season games to subject two teams to a play-in game for the playoffs. It's one more thing that makes me question the rationality of Bud Selig, and wonder how many marbles he's lost at this point.
One final note: Another item slipped in under the vail of the expanded playoffs is apparently the Houston Astros will be an American League team in 2013. Whatever you say, Bud. Whatever you say.