So we have officially been through Bud Selig’s first ever one-game, Wild Card games and I have to say, as something of a baseball purist, I was a bit iffy going in. But here’s the thing, I actually kind of like it. Now sure, the inaugural games did not go off without a hitch, as they say, but slightly more on that to come since I know you’ve probably heard very little about that already. The natural argument against a one game, winner take all, match-up for a right to head to the LDS is that it is just one game. That is to say that many feel that boiling down a 162 season into one do or die situation, to put it eloquently, sucks.
Well there is no arguing against that point, I guess. Does it suck? Well, yeah. A team works hard through 162 games to get a Wild Card birth only to have their season end just like that. The point of the Wild Card games and adding the extra Wild Card team is to put more emphasis on winning the division. Which you have to admit, makes sense, right? Not only that, it adds a layer of advantage to the team with the best record in each league. The wild card team they face will already have had to fight through a draining game and hopefully have burned their ace or at least their bullpens before facing them. Now Chipper Jones, among others, said it stinks that a season could come down to a blown call or miscue or anything of that sort, so it should be at least a best-of-three series. But this is where we could start down a slippery slope.
From there the LDS could become a best-of-seven series and who knows, we could end up back to the early 20th century with a best-of-nine World Series. Here’s the thing, would it be different if the Braves were down one game to none and the bad call came in game two and it ended the season? The bottom line is, win your division and you don’t have to worry about that at all. Now I’m sure Chipper was just mad that his career, more than his season, could be decided by one game or one call. The thing is, to say that call cost the Braves the game is a bit simplistic. They still loaded the bases after that and failed to plate a run against arguably one of the worst closers in the game. So to have this point to argue against the one-game Wild Card does not quite hold water with me. I mean that could happen in a game seven, but would that make a team feel better about being on the wrong end of the call? I highly doubt it. It was a big game and there was a blown call. We’ve seen it before, but you know what, good, mentally tough teams can overcome this during a game and fight back into the game. If you still have your chances after the bad call then don’t blame the call. Do not use this to argue against the one-game playoff. Move on and let it be. What you should really be mad about is the change Bud Selig slipped into the equation while no one was looking.
You see, when baseball went to three divisions and added a playoff round, the higher seed would actually start the playoffs on the road. A 2-3 format, where the higher seed would play games one and two on the road and the next three at home. Which at the time I found ludicrous. I guess they were trying to lay this out like the best-of-seven series’ as if it stopped at five? I’m not really sure, but I was certainly opposed to it. But then, finally, one of my strongly worded letters must have reached the commissioner or something as the 2-3 format was abolished and more reasonable 2-2-1 format was adopted and all was good with the world. But then lo and behold, what do I notice this season? The gosh darned return of the 2-3 format!
This seems even more ridiculous now then it did in the early 90s. Now, as opposed to then, the Wild Card winner gets to come off a win and host, yes HOST, the first two games of the LDS round. Say what? First off, if you subscribe to that sort of thing, you’ve given a Wild Card team (you know a non-division winner) momentum launched right into a home game to start a series. Now if you are, like me, more of the momentum-shmomentum side, there is also the fact that the two teams who earned home field advantage, are only guaranteed one home playoff game. One? That hardly seems fair.
Of course, a good team should be able to win on the road and beat the lesser team regardless, this is true. But as we have seen time and again, anything can happen in a short series in baseball. So, yeah, the higher seed should still be able to win the series, but it think about the home team fans, concessions, street vendors, etc. Even if the home team sweeps the series, they are losing out on one game they should be guaranteed. Playoff tickets, for instance are sold by series, right? So if you’re team clinches home field advantage, you think, “oh cool, I have tickets to the second LDS game!” Cool, except if there’s a sweep and now you miss out on a playoff game. Is this a bit extreme to argue my point? Sure, but I still stand by the fact that the 2-3 format is rubbish.
So Mr. Selig, I’m okay with the Wild Card games and will have your back should people doubt these new playoff games, but I implore you sir, return to the 2-2-1 format in the LDS! Don’t make a step forward and then step back at the same time, Bud! Give the teams and fans that deserve it, another guaranteed playoff game. It’s one game, I understand, but think about the little people in all this and do it for them. Do it for the little people Bud before my strongly worded letters start hitting your desk again.