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Kill the Wild-Card (Special from the IBWAA)

Kill the Wild-Card, Restore True Champions

By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)

***

This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in September 2023.

***

Sorry, guys, but I’m not wild about the wild-card.


I hated it when there was one wild-card winner in the playoffs, hated it more when there were two, and absolutely detest the fact that there are three — expanding the post-season into a tournament that reeks of football, basketball, and hockey.


Baseball has a 162-game schedule for a reason: to determine the best team between the end of spring training and the start of the post-season.


Anything that creates the slightest chance that the best teams won’t reach the World Series is a travesty.


For example, the Miami Marlins managed to win two world championships without ever finishing first. In 31 seasons, including this one, the Fish have never won the NL East.


The 2002 Los Angeles Angels won their only World Series by getting hot when it counted, riding a wild-card into a world championship over another wild-card, the San Francisco Giants.


Though obviously a bold-faced revenue grab, the wild-card system was supposedly designed to retain interest in cities whose teams dropped out of contention in September.


To the contrary, the wild-card justifies mediocrity, creating the very real possibility that a team with more losses than wins can get hot just in time to win a world championship with a losing record. That would be a black mark against the game, as is anything that compromises the integrity of the World Series.


With six divisions in baseball today, isn’t there enough interest in the races for the division titles?


It’s a good storyline that the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached the playoffs 11 years in a row and the Atlanta Braves have the longest active streak — which will reach six this year — and also own the longest title streak (14) since the 1969 advent of divisional play.


Except for the East and West divisions of the National League, all of the divisions have real races going on.


There are even three-team races in two of those four, the AL West and NL Central. The American League East race is intriguing because every team is likely to finish over .500, while the American League Central is the weakest division in the land.


While wild-card standings change almost daily, does anyone really care about them? MLB Network keeps trying to make that case but isn’t very convincing.


The wild-card also weakens the trade deadline, with way too many teams (notably the 2023 Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres) thinking they’re still alive. That stifles trading and deprives fans of the most exciting aspect of baseball season between the All-Star Game and the playoffs.


Since baseball would be better balanced with 32 teams rather than the current 30, why not realign into four eight-team leagues, each split into divisions of four, and send the wild-card to the dustbin of baseball history?


Baseball has made plenty of changes, especially recently, but focusing on champions rather than also-rans would be an enormous improvement.


What say you, Rob Manfred?

***

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 42 baseball books and a national baseball writer for forbes.com.

4 comentarios


Mike Whiteman
10 sept 2023

Sign me up for great divisional races. The "weakened" trade deadline argument doesn't do too much for me, as I'm not sure an active trade market with numerous teams selling is great for the game. I'd be open to an eight division format if the schedules were imbalanced. Don't want sub-.500 teams winning divisions.

Me gusta

Alan B.
Alan B.
10 sept 2023

The wild card is all about 2 things:

  1. Keeping fannies in the seats until September, when its obvious; and

  2. Making sure the 2nd best team record wise makes the playoffs.

Me gusta

lenjack
10 sept 2023

Completely agree. Carried to an extreme, maybe there will be a time when only the 6 last place teams will be dropped, and the other 24, ALL make the plyoffs. We may get a season, in which the WS winner, will have a 79-83 season record. This stinks.

Me gusta

yankeesblog
10 sept 2023

I'm on board with four 8-team divisions but not splitting them into 4-team divisions some of which are guaranteed to be weak and replicate the same problem with the Central Divisions we have today.

Me gusta
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