Earlier this week, Bud Selig announced the addition of two extra wild card teams that would be crashing the postseason party in 2012. Although he used his index finger to point out why this would be good for baseball, what he really did was give real baseball fans such as myself the middle finger. (By the way, my Studious Metsimus colleague also believes extra wild card teams are a good thing. It's okay. He's allowed to make mistakes every once in a while.)
Why do I think baseball should not have changed its current playoff format? I'm Joey Beartran and I'm about to get on my soapbox to tell you why.
Do you remember the last day of the 2011 regular season? Sure you do. You were watching the MLB Network or ESPN to see if Mr. Testosterone (Ryan Braun) would edge out Mr. Marlin (Jose Reyes) for the National League batting title. But even after Mr. T fell short in denying the Mets their first-ever batting champion (I pity the fool who tries the take the batting title away from any Met), we didn't change the channel, as we were mesmerized by the Phillies-Braves, Cardinals-Astros, Red Sox-Orioles and Rays-Yankees games that would decide which teams would earn their league's wild card berth and which teams would go home.
Also, by adding an extra playoff team in each league, our wonderful commissioner flipped us the bird by making it a one-game "series", rather than making it a best-of-three. Just think of this scenario, using the Mets as an example.
In 2000, the Mets won the wild card by a wide margin. With a 94-68 record, the Mets finished the year 26 games above .500. No other competitor for the wild card finished more than 10 games above the break even point. Of course, under the new system, the 86-76 Dodgers would have qualified for the playoffs as the NL's second wild card team. Clearly, the Mets had an excellent season, as they finished only one game behind the first place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. But anything can happen in a one-game playoff, a game they would have been forced to play under the new rules.
What if the Mets had used their best pitchers to try to win the division and then had to use their No. 5 starter in the one-game wild card playoff? The 86-win Dodgers could definitely have ended the Mets' season in 2000, especially if they would be able to use either of their top two pitchers (Kevin Brown and Chan Ho Park combined to go 31-16 with a 2.92 ERA in 2000) in the do-or-die matchup. The Mets might still be searching for their fourth pennant had these new rules been in place at the dawn of the millennium.
I'm not your typical baseball traditionalist, but I do know that changing the current playoff format will not be good for baseball. It will dilute the playoff punch and may lead to good wild card teams being knocked out by mediocre wild card teams because they couldn't win one game.
In football, any team can win on any given Sunday. In baseball, any team will now be able to win in any given one-game wild card playoff game. It's not good for those deserving wild card teams and as a result, it won't be good for baseball.