It is October, and time for the baseball playoffs! My team, the New York Yankees are in it once again. They won the World Series last year. However, this year, their road to the playoffs was not by winning their division, the American League East, as they had done almost every year since 1996. Instead, they are the Wild Card.
The Wild Card, introduced in 1995 (actually a year earlier before a strike prematurely ended the season), allows one team from each league, that finished in 2nd place to join the three division winners in the playoffs. However, the format has become stale, and the same teams tend to be in the playoffs every year, sometimes as a division winner and others as a Wild Card. This removes fans from many other cities rooting for their teams with a chance they may make the postseason.
This year, the Yankees finished the season with the same exact record as the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays won the division thanks to a tiebreaker of going head to head. Both teams, however, slacked off down the stretch, as they had each clinched a playoff berth, and there wasn’t urgency if they won the division or the Wild Card. At the end of the day, both are in the playoffs, along with six other teams, and 22 other clubs are home.
My plan would make it difficult for teams to coast late in the season as a Wild Card. It would increase competition on multiple points.
1. The division of the previous year’s Wild Card would not be eligible for the current year’s Wild Card. Since a Wild Card would not be a given, it would raise the importance of winning the division.
2. A play in game would determine the Wild Card. The two teams in that game would be the 2nd place teams of the two divisions that did not have the Wild Ward the previous year. This would end the lazy practice of setting up playoff rotations and coasting as a Wild Card.
If two teams finish tied at the top of a division, a one game tiebreaker would determine the division champion, with the loser playing in the Wild Card Game, unlike the current rules. A play in game is not a playoff game.
If two teams are tied for second place, a tiebreaker game would not be played, and head to head and division stats would be used to choose who would be in the game.
These two play in games (one for each league) would bring in additional TV revenue for MLB, since the games would be guaranteed to happen each year.
What do you think? How would you change the Wild Card? Or would you?