I wrote of another playoff expansion earlier today but as the MLB season winds down, I can’t help but wonder why baseball hasn’t changed its format either? The first set of wild card games started back in 2012 and has been a success at keeping the remainder of the regular season interesting and has awarded good teams with strong years an extra chance to make it to the NLDS or ALDS.
The odd part of the entire format though seems to be a random idea rather than something that has happened organically. Baseball’s regular season is composed of 3 game series, 4 game series, and the rare and occasional 2 game series. The idea of “winning the series” permeates throughout the entire season as the more series you win the better your record will be. The only missing piece is a 1 game matchup.
No where on any team’s schedule will you see a 1 time only matchup between teams. Therefore, when we get to the regular season and we see the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees squaring off in a win or go home scenario, I can’t help but feel robbed of a fantastic series between 2 of baseball’s better teams. It almost feels like a forced game that MLB just threw at the fans so 1 fan base could quit griping and get to the playoffs.
I agree that a wild card series shouldn’t be a best of 5 or 7 but for a season that’s built around 3s, it’s only natural that we allow the wild card round to be decided as such. The way I see it, baseball has 3 options:
#1.) Keep it the way it is – obviously this options sucks and shouldn’t be followed.
#2.) Best of 2 games – much in the way of the UEFA Champions League, a 2 game home and home with the aggregate score being the deciding factor would help extend the series and allow for a actual series winner. I’m not sure about away runs weighing heavier but this seems like a fun 2 game series that could see lots of offense and/or great pitching duels. There would be a travel day for both teams and each city would get to host a wild card game (extra ticket sales, extra concession sales, etc.).
#3.) The best and obvious answer – A best of 3 series between the 2 teams would go a long way in helping preserve the best that baseball has to offer. It keeps the natural flow of pitching rotations and batting lineup changes and gives fans exactly what they want. In essence, the feeling would be an extra “Wild Card” series added to the regular season and it would feel completely natural to the fans and players alike.
As an Atlanta Braves fan, I saw first hand the negatives a 1 game play-in game can have when an umpire completely botched our comeback attempt in the infamous “Infield Fly Game”. May we have won the game? Who knows but putting all the emphasis on one game allowed a critical call late in the game to influence the outcome of the year. The MLB, seeing this happen, should have acknowledged the flaw in the system and hopefully they will correct it in time.
How many times has a team lost the 1st game of a series and gone on to win it? Throughout a season it happens a lot. It’s happened in past 2 World Series as well.