By now we’ve all heard about Bud Selig’s expansion plans for the playoffs. He would like to add 2 wild card teams to each post season, presumably having either a sudden-death or a best-of 3 series between them in order to determine who moves on into the conventional Divisional Series.
Here’s the main, singular problem I have with the plan. It virtually guarantees that the griphold that AL East powerhouse teams New York and Boston have on the playoffs will continue.
Here’s a quick rundown on the AL East playoff representatives since the wild card was introduced after the players strike in 1994.
2010: Yankees (Rays)
2009: Yankees and Boston
2008: Boston (Rays)
2007: Yankees and Boston
2005: Yankees and Boston
2004: Yankees and Boston
2003: Yankees and Boston
1999: Yankees and Boston
1998: Yankees and Boston
1997: Yankees (Orioles)
1996: Yankees (Orioles)
1995: Yankees and Boston
In the last 15 years, to summarize:
- The Yankees missed the playoffs just ONCE.
- The Red Sox made the playoffs 9 of 15 years.
- Both teams combined to make 23 of 30 possible appearances in the post season.
- Other teams in the AL east made the playoffs a grand total of 4 times.
- The Yankees and Red Sox BOTH made the playoffs in 8 of those 15 years. HALF the time.
Lets take a quick peek at the standings for the past few years to see who would have benefited from a 2nd wild card:
2010: Boston and San Diego
2009: Texas and San Francisco
2008: Yankees and NY Mets
2007: Detroit/Seattle (tied) and San Diego
2006: White Sox and Philadelphia
2005: Cleveland and Philadelphia
2004: Oakland and San Francisco
2003: Seattle and Houston
2002: Boston/Seattle (tied) and LA Dodgers
2001: Minnesota and San Francisco
2000: Cleveland and LA Dodgers
1999: Oakland and Cincinnati
1998: Toronto and San Francisco
1997: Anaheim and NY Mets/LA Dodgers (tie)
1996: Boston/Chicago/Seattle (tie) and Montreal
1995: California and Houston
So, had a 2nd wildcard been in place it would have increased the Boston/Yankee playoff appearance ratio from 23 of 30 to at least 25 of 30 and possibly 27 of 30 places since 1994.
Why not just guarantee the two teams berths and have the rest of the league play for 3rd place??
Coincidentally, what was going on in the AL East just prior to the Wild Card era? Take a look:
The Players strike ended a nifty run of 4 divisional titles (and 2 World Series victories) in 5 years for the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not appeared in the post season since. The strike clearly caused a shift in baseball viewing habits for both Canadian franchises, and resulted in the outright removal of the Montreal franchise (and subsequent firesale/gift for new Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria).
I realize that the MLB has drastically fewer playoff teams as a percentage of the league. Here’s a quick table:
|Ttl Teams||# Playoff teams||Pct|
Even adding 2 more wild cards would only increase MLB’s percentage to 30%, still lower than the parsimonious NFL. But to what end? Others have noted that this would mean longer seasons, world series drifting into mid-November, competing and losing to the NFL in ratings, bleeding into an already busy sports period, etc.
Just about the only benefit I can see would be having 2 wild card teams beating each other up and exhausting their rotations just before taking on the #1 regular season team. The last thing I want to see as a baseball purist is a wild card team like the 1997 Florida Marlins sneak into the playoffs on a hot streak and luck their way to a world series title. At least extra wild card teams would help prevent that from happening.