MLB's Wild-Card Game is loved and loathed

MLB’s Wild-Card Game is loved and loathed

BOSTON – The wild card game is not fair. Long live the wild-card game.

There may be conflicting opinions, but it all depends on your perspective. If you’re a player, you hate it. If you are a viewer, you will love it.

“Is it fair? No, it’s not fair, “said Curtis Granderson, the former major league outfielder, on Tuesday. “Is it funny? Absolutely.”

The Yankees fell to the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, in the American League wild-card game at Fenway Park on Tuesday, a day before the National League match between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. The winner of each advances to a division series, meaning the Dodgers are already facing elimination despite tie his franchise record for victories with 106.

The reason is a quirk: As big as the Dodgers were, they played in the same division as the San Francisco Giants, which was a game better. The Cardinals needed just 90 wins to share the stage.

“If I play on a team that has just won 100 games, I will have the right to be out there and stretch my chances of at least three games – not just one and done,” said Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who will analyze the playoffs for TBS with Granderson and Jimmy Rollins. “The effort of my whole team, my whole organization, goes down the drain by losing a match? A small mistake? “

Martinez won his only championship with a wild-card team, the 2004 Red Sox. At the time, baseball provided a wild-card berth to just one team in each league, and the playoffs began with the best of five division series. The format changed in 2012, where each league conducted a knockout game between two wild cards to open the post-season.

The games have often brought great drama: rolling comebacks in Kansas City and Washington, a walk-off homer by Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto, two roadblocks by Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. Whatever you think of the format, the move is irresistible.

“I’m going to watch both games, and I’m going to enjoy those spectators,” said Bud Black, who has won a wild card game and lost another as the Colorado Rockies’ manager. “But when it’s over so fast – bam, you’re done. You want to have a chance to show why you came to the playoffs with at least three games. I think that is the point of view of every player, manager, general manager, coach. But from a fan’s point of view, they are great. ”

Should baseball keep the wild-card game because it’s so much fun? Or kill it because it’s a gimmicky way for a team to risk the season? Ultimately, it seems that none of the questions are relevant.

When Major League Baseball and the players’ association negotiate a new collective agreement, they will strongly consider expanding the playoffs. Creating more content is an easy way to increase revenue, and last year’s 16-stock field – a cash collection after a 60-game regular season – offers a template.

“I thought last year was pretty cool,” Black said. “I know it was another year of the pandemic, but if we could somehow shorten the season through negotiations – not much, 152, 154 games, whatever the number – add a team or two and play two of three, I think it works. And maybe with that time frame, not so many days off between series. Do it like the regular season: You play consecutive games, you get on a plane, you play the next day. These things can be solved, so you it doesn’t take that much. ”

For most of baseball history, the regular season champions in each league went straight to the World Series. Tea 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers (104-50) had an even better winning percentage than this year’s Dodger team, but lost the NL pennant to the Cardinals.

“I was with the Cubs when we were nosed out at three or four championships, but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” said Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman of the Brooklyn Eagle the next day. “When you win 104 games and finish in second place, there is nothing to say.”

The format finally changed in 1969, when baseball split into four divisions and added the League Championship Series. It was the only playoff round through 1993, when the Giants won 103 games, but lost to NL West in a game against Atlanta.

“You just accepted it,” said Black, who then pitched for the Giants. “We were conditioned by it: You either win your division or not. But it was such a good year, and we played so well that we felt a little short. »

While Black said he felt for the Dodgers in 2021, others of his time do not. Ken Singleton, who retired last weekend as the Yankees’ broadcaster, once played for six second places in an eight-year period with Baltimore. In 1980, Orioles won 100 games but lost AL East to the Yankees; they would have even welcomed a playoff ticket for one game.

“Who knows, we might have won the World Series – but there was no wildcard at the time,” Singleton said. “The Dodgers are in the playoffs. We were not. So I do not have much sympathy for them.”

Four teams have used the wild-card game to launch a race to the World Series, with the Giants 2014 and Nationals 2019 winning the championship. Singleton said he hoped the playoff format would remain as it is, as the post-season could extend to November already. He does not mind that the unbalanced schedule emphasizes division play.

“When the Red Sox won the division in 2018, they went 16-3 against the Orioles,” Singleton said. “When the Yankees won in 2019, they went 17-2 against the Orioles. And this year, the Rays went 18-1 against them. So in a way, the Orioles hold the key to the division. If you play well against them, you will win.”

The Orioles lost 110 games this season, associate with the Arizona Diamondbacks for most of the majors. And how did the Giants and Dodgers play against the Diamondbacks in NL West?

The Giants beat them 17 times, and the Dodgers beat them 16 times. One match was the difference in the division.

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