It’s been rumored for a while, but Bud Selig makes it official:
Major League Baseball will officially expand the playoffs to 10 teams starting this season…The new format will add another wild card team, with the two wild cards to play each other in one game with the winner moving on to face a division winner.
I strongly approve of this; it’s how the wild card should have been all along, if we must have it (which I still dislike). Forcing the wild card teams into a one-game, high-stakes playoff gives a definite advantage to being a division winner over a wild card. That is likely to have the largest impact in the American League East, where the Yankees and Red Sox have often seemed to treat the regular season as a formality; now, especially if they’re facing another wild card team with one really good starting pitcher, they are going to want to fight like mad to get the division flag and not have to run the gauntlet of a one-game playoff. Yet, expanding to two wild cards also accomplishes what the owners wanted, which is to have more teams at least theoretically alive in September.
Yes, a part of me shares David Wright’s reaction (“That would have been nice five years ago“). Of course, that’s de facto what we have had a few times already when teams tied for the Wild Card, and it will get wilder still if we have those ties now, putting teams in the position of playing consecutive single-elimination games.
Bottom line: more thrilling September and October baseball, but in a way that makes early-season baseball more rather than less significant. For once, win-win all around.