Mood Music - In The Mood by The Glenn Miller Orchestra
It's time for a "When I was younger!" rant from your old, crotchety, but lovable writer. When I was younger, back in 1993, the San Francisco Giants finished with a 103-59 Regular Season, a better record than all teams that year save one, the Atlanta Braves who finished the Regular Season 104-58. Because they were in the same division, the NL West at the time, the Giants would not advance to the playoffs because at the time the playoffs structure did not consist of the Wild Card or the LDS. In both divisions, it was the top team in the East vs. the top team in the West, and then the best would go on to face each other in the World Series. Also in 1993, the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies also joined baseball.
The following year, baseball was restructured into the current three division league structure, East, Central, and West. With this new three division league structure created the need for a Wild Card, because for obvious reasons one team should not have a week's rest, as it could actually hinder them more than help them. The Wild Card could be any team from any division, as long as they had the best record among the non division winners. Now this was seemingly done so that a team like the Giants, who in 1993 finished with a better record than every other team in the majors except the Braves could still make the post season even though they didn't win the division. This was seen by many at the time as "fair" to everyone. I always thought it was kind of stupid because if they were keeping the division structuring, something I personally like for reasons I'll get into later, then it allows a team who didn't win their division to have a chance. Essentially, it allowed a loser a chance to be a winner. With the recent revelation of Bud "Expanded Interleague Makes Me Want To Vomit" Selig and MLB's plan to include a second Wild Card in order to make winning the division important again, I can now officially say that 19 years ago (wow it's been that long) I was right, that it WAS stupid!
I walk FIF-TEEN miles to school in my bare feet after the jump...
So really, what did they think was going to happen when the Wild Card was created? Maybe it would allow a better team, or at least a team with a better record than another division winning, to get into the playoffs, but it should have been taken into account that certain teams like the 2010 Yankees were going to kind of coast into the playoffs because 1. They wanted to rest players and 2. They probably wanted to face the Twins in a 5-game series than the Rangers in a 5-game series. That was another thing I found stupid about the Wild Card, that they weren't allowed to play the same divisional rival in the LDS. Why? What's the difference if they play the divisional rival in the LDS or in the LCS? I mean if the Wild Card has already made it that they do not have to win the division in order to make it to the playoffs then why should it matter if they play the divisional rival first?
Like I mentioned in my article/rant yesterday, the major reason why I've heard that I should be happy about the additional Wild Card is because it will make winning the division that much more important because now they will be punished with a one-game elimination Wild Card DEATH MATCH! Now correct me if I'm wrong, don't worry I'm not, but before the Wild Card ever existed there was already plenty of incentive for teams to win their division because, you know, if they didn't win the division then they didn't make the playoffs. It was actually amazingly simple, so simple that it was brilliant. It made it so every game was that much more important. Keep in mind, I don't actually think teams try to settle for the Wild Card and that they are not out there every day trying to win every baseball game. Whereas the Yankees were clearly taking it easy in 2010 because there was no chance they wouldn't make the playoffs, the teams they put on the field were not trying not to win, which is what "further incentive" suggests was the case. They were just using a strategic advantage they had at the time. Personally, I think this "further incentive" thing is a load of hogwash and gobbledygook.
In 1998 the Yankees finished ahead of the Red Sox by 22 games and the Red Sox finished with the second best record in the American League. The Red Sox could've had all the incentive in the world and they had zero percent chance of catching the Yankees. Zero. Percent. As much as I like to see the Red Sox suffer, it's absolutely not fair to punish them because they had no chance to finish first. This is the case with a lot of Wild Card teams. Sometimes they don't have a chance to finish ahead of the first place team. Not every situation is like the Yankees in 2010, which again seems to be a product of how stupid the original Wild Card was if "further incentive to win the division" is the current problem. Sometimes it is a battle to the finish or at other times, like in 1998 with the Yankees, the Wild Card team has no chance to catch up to the first place team. In both cases, with this extra Wild Card, you are now punishing teams no matter what. That is really what I always thought the stupidity of the Wild Card was in the first place; punishment for teams that win.
Getting back to divisions, one reason I've always liked the idea of divisions is because I feel it's good for the sport. With divisions come divisional rivals, teams you really want to see your team beat, much like the Yankees & Red Sox. It's not always the case though. In fact, some rivalries form with other teams in other divisions as well, so my point isn't necessarily right. I've just always felt that having divisions helps with this. However, with the addition of the Wild Card and now the addition of another Wild Card, I'm really coming around to the idea that divisions are pointless in baseball. If the Wild Card's intent is to let teams like the 1993 San Francisco Giants in because they finished with a much better record then every other team except the Braves, then what's the point with divisions in the first place? At that point, just let the 2 best teams in the AL and the 2 best teams in the NL into the playoffs. Or 4 teams if they want to keep the same number of playoff teams. Actually, that's another problem I had with the Wild Card when it was first announced.
I've always had a problem with making the playoffs longer than they need to be. Unlike the other three major sports, Baseball's regular season is much more intense, longer, and more games are played, 162 to be precise. Teams spend the entire regular season proving that they are the best team in the league, and in their division. Since the season is already very long, the playoffs should be short, much like they were before the Wild Card. There is no need for November baseball. The playoffs are a reward for the winners, the teams that won their division. Like I said earlier, when the Wild Card was added, you are now punishing the winners by making them play losers, and in a short 5-game series anyone can win. This practice of punishment is continuing with this additional Wild Card. It has made a mockery of the regular season, and made it where I personally don't even care that much about the playoffs anymore because it's such a crapshoot. I'll always root for the Yankees to win the playoffs because I always root for them to win no matter what. However, last year I was much more excited & proud by how they did in the regular season, not because they didn't advance past the Tigers but rather cause it's getting to the point where I don't care if they do anymore due to the randomness of the playoffs. Another Wild Card will only add further randomness and whoever wins that Wild Card still has the same legitimate chance to win a LDS series.
So here we are, with another Wild Card on the way. All this talk about adding "further incentive" is meant to fix the problems that the original Wild Card created. All this talk about making the playoffs more exciting is just MLB punishing the Wild Card because they realized that a second place team has just as much of a chance to beat a first place team, a team that actually won their division due to skill or "incentive" or whatever. Now a team like the 1993 San Francisco Giants, a team that finished one game behind the Braves, a team that finished with a better record than anyone other than the Braves, would now have the potential to lose it all in a one-game elimination match against the 87-75 St. Louis Cardinals which would absolutely defeat the purpose of why the original Wild Card was partially created in the first place.
What's truly sad is that there are a couple of solution to fix the problem. One was my original idea of having two more expansion teams and then creating four divisions, North, South, East, and West, which would eliminate the need for a Wild Card all together. The second would be to eliminate divisions all together and just make it where the four best teams in each league go to the playoffs. Both involve balancing the schedule. Mind you, I think the playoffs are too long as it is so I'd love to go back to just the LCS then the WS, but that's not going to happen. In fact, none of this is going to happen for the same reason that they created the Wild Card and now the additional Wild Card in the first place; money. Ultimately, that is what this is all about. Money. Cash. Cha-ching. Baseball fully follows the Wu Tang Clan C.R.E.A.M. philosophy, because everything they do is 100% based on it. The only time teams might not have any incentive to win first place is when they are already a lock for the playoffs, so "further incentive" is complete crap because it makes it seem like teams weren't trying to win all year long. All this does is make the playoffs longer and even more random than it already was thanks to the original Wild Card. All it does is give fans a one-game must watch DEATH MATCH to determine what loser gets to face an actual winner. Again, cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching. This is only going to continue as well, with the Astros soon to join the American League next year resulting in expanded interleague. Interleague generates money, there's no doubt about it. It also makes the schedule unbalanced and further interleague will most likely create further imbalance and probably much more exploitation. Seriously, I cannot bunting wait.
So yeah, the one solace I'll take from the sport I love's continued butchery for monetary profits is that I was right all those years ago. All that this second Wild Card addition has shown me is that 19 years ago (again, still cannot believe it was that long ago) 13 year old I'mGivingYouARaise was correct and that the Wild Card was, and still is, a stupid idea and does not offer more competition, but rather hinders teams that do their absolute best during the regular season, which is the only part of the sport I really seem to care about anymore. With expanded interleague and more imbalance, we'll see how long that lasts as well.