Imagine having four Major League Baseball teams in a position to gain a playoff spot along with the six Division Leaders from both the National and American Leagues. Imagine six other teams vying for a playoff spot and within striking distance to overtake the leaders. Imagine anyone one of these teams winning the World Series. Could Major League Baseball have script it even better?
When Major League Baseball created the Wild Card back in 1994, it was part of the revamping of both the American and National Leagues by creating three divisions in each respective league. But the baseball strike of 1994 forced the first Wild Card winners to be pushed forward to 1995 with honors going to the New York Yankees and the Colorado Rockies. The adding of the extra playoff spot opened the door for each league which was meant to bring more excitement to the game. It opened up the door to allow the teams that are on the bubble to now have an opportunity to not have to try and win their Division but they could make it in the playoffs through the back door. Only five out of all the eighteen Wild Card winners since 1995 have gone on to win the World Series, with the Florida Marlins doing it twice in 1997 and 2003. The latest Wild Card team to win the World Series was the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. So with the excitement of having a team not win their respective division but win it all, Major League Baseball has gone one step further. By adding a second Wild Card, it has allowed other teams that may not have the roster or payroll to compete for a Division Crown, but could now focus on just playing well enough to make it in the playoffs. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles that for so many years have fallen short of even making the playoffs, now find themselves tied for one of the two American League Wild Card spots.
In 2012, the extra Wild Card has opened up playoff races not seen before in Major League Baseball history. Teams that are normally considered out of it by this time of the year are doing their part and playing quality baseball. Their fans are reaping the benefits by finally saying that their teams are in the playoff hunt. There are a total of 10 teams vying for four Wild Card spots and only 5 games separate the teams.
Did Major League Baseball have a Crystal Ball when they sat down and decided that adding an extra Wild Card would open up so many opportunities for other cities that normally have called it quits by now? We are in the middle of August, with approximately a little more than a month of regular season baseball, and each game is pivotal. Teams are looking for that extra edge, fans are excited again, and Baseball is exciting to watch. Games are being played in playoff atmosphere with each game a make or break for the teams. Even teams like the Boston Redsox that have had a horrible season, only find themselves just 7.5 games out of the Wild Card spot. A strong finish by the Redsox and we may be looking at adding another team to the already stacked Wild Card hunt.
So Major League Baseball has accomplished so far what must have been their thinking, to make baseball exciting again in an era when so much negative news with banned substances have given baseball a black eye, and to bring playoff baseball back to cities that have not seen it in a long time. So far, Major League Baseball has done just that. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles are reaping the benefits of the change.
So hopefully 2012 will go on record as one of the most exciting seasons in baseball history for the number of viable playoff teams in the hunt. Hopefully fans will be able to look past all the negativity in the past few seasons and remember why they love the game. Not because of the mistakes of a few, but for the excitement of rooting their teams on to victory. If at the end of this season, Major League Baseball crowns another Wild Card team as World Series Champs, the new change will be another accepted and well received addition to baseball.
Filed under: MLB