BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com blogger
With the expansion of the MLB playoffs to include an additional wild card team in each league, baseball may finally be relevant to more than the diehard fan.
The wild card was first added in 1995 to expand each division to include 4 playoff teams. This was great for baseball and since its addition we have seen 5 wild card teams go on to win the World Series, most notably the 2004 Boston Red Sox. However, some might argue that what the St. Louis Cardinals did in 2011 (23-9 in their final games and overcoming a 10.5 game deficit to clinch the wild card) may trump the magical run that Boston put together just 7 years before.
By expanding the wild card to include two teams from each division baseball and its fans come out winners. Each wild card race is suddenly expanded to include more teams vying for a playoff spot. And with games happening every day, the races will no doubt play out until the final days of the regular season. Take the current season for example. If the playoffs still included just one wild card team, the Atlanta Braves would have a 6.5 game lead over St. Louis, and the L.A. Dodgers would be 8.5 games out of the lead. Instead, by including a second wild card team, the Dodgers are only 2 games back and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. Even the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates are still in the playoff chase just 4.5 games back of St. Louis (with only one wild card spot, these teams would be 11 games back and likely playing AAA call-ups to gain experience). With the current playoff format we now have a seven team race for two spots in the NL (6 teams if you consider that Atlanta holds a 8.5 game lead over the Dodgers, the closest team that could threaten their playoff chances) and a five team race in the AL. (more…)