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Counterpoint: Second wild card one too many

Additional playoff team waters down rest of the tournament
07/19/2012 12:05 PM ET
By E. Spencer Kyte / BugsandCranks.com

Under MLB's new playoff system, the Red Sox's fall last season would have been anticlimactic.(AP)

You know what’s not awesome? When someone tries to force naturally occurring awesome things to happen.

That’s exactly what Major League Baseball is doing by introducing this second wild card spot this year in my opinion. Instead of letting the excitement of a one-game, winner-take-all playoff occur naturally – or simply hoping that Game No. 162 matters when it comes to deciding the wild card – MLB is rolling out an additional wild card spot in each league.

And for what?

A one-game, win-and-you’re-in, “Isn’t this exciting?” situation between a pair of teams who weren’t quite good enough to win their respective divisions. Even better? It could be two teams from the same division too.

“Hey, third place team? C’mon down! You’ve still got a shot at this!”

You know all the whining we hear whenever a wild card team has a deep run in the playoffs or wins the World Series? It’s going to be doubly loud if the second Wild Card team wins the whole shooting match.

Hypothetically speaking, the Red Sox finish third in the AL East, but earn the second wild card berth. They win the play-in game – which is what this really is – win the Division Series, beat the Yankees in the ALCS, and go on to win the World Series. How’s that going to make New Yorkers feel?

A team that couldn’t even finish second in their division got hot, got some good bounces, and went on to win the World Series. That’s brutal, but not out of the realm of possibility.

I understand that it allows for those cases where a couple teams have better records than one (or two) of the division winners, but that’s just the way it goes. Instead of aiming to win the division, the Blue Jays could – theoretically speaking – just focus on being better than the second-place team out west or in the Central, and boom – they’re in the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

It’s ridiculous to me that you can be the third-best team in your division and still potentially win the World Series.

Additionally, the excitement from the final day of last season would have been eliminated had there been a second Wild Card berth available too, as the Red Sox and Braves were each a couple games clear of their nearest challenger. Instead of having an exhilarating ending to the regular season, we would have had an anti-climactic finale.

As if this forced “we’re all having fun here” playoff to make it into the actual playoffs isn’t lame enough, the way it impacts everything else moving forward this year makes it doubly awful.

Let’s say you’re one of the two teams playing in this little Wild Card one-gamer – do you start your ace, knowing that you need a win to get into the actual playoffs or do you just go with whoever is up next in the rotation and hope for the best? If you go with your ace, he’s only getting one start in the best-of-five Divisional Series, but if you lose with your No. 3 guy, well, you didn’t need to save your ace for the Division Series now did you?

I honestly don’t see what was wrong with the way things were, and I say that as someone who is very much in favor of changing things up. But this isn’t adding another team to the playoffs – it’s like a playoff appetizer; a little snack to get you excited about the main course that follows.

This is baseball trying to make things more interesting on two different fronts:

1. Another Wild Card berth can hold fan attention longer, since many have checked out on the season by the time September rolls around and they’re out of contention.

2. A one-game, do-or-die contest between the two Wild Card teams that creates the excitement of a “win and you’re in” game at the end of the regular season.

I get it. I just think it’s lame.

Everything was working just fine when four teams made the playoffs. Why MLB had to go and change things is beyond me.

What do you think? Voice your opinion in the comments section below, and click here to read Jon Lane's counterpoint of why a second wild card breeds excitement.

E. Spencer Kyte is a contributor to BugsandCranks.com a destination for offbeat baseball analysis. Follow E. Spencer on Twitter: @spencerkyte

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