When Chris Taylor walked off the red hot St. Louis Cardinals, all of Los Angeles breathed a sigh of relief. It’s safe to say that Commissioner Rob Manfred breathed a similar sigh of relief when the game finished.
The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games this past season, good for the second best record in baseball. Not only was it the second best record in baseball, it was six games better than the next best team. Yet, the Dodgers were forced to play one single elimination game for their season.
Not only was it a single elimination game against a playoff team, Los Angeles played the hottest team in Major League Baseball. Since the introduction of the wild card game, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the most to lose of any other wild card team in history.
In previous seasons, the wild card was there for a team like the St. Louis Cardinals, a meddling team that caught fire in September. 106 win teams are not wild card teams.
Rob Manfred needed the Dodgers to win yesterday, but the change in format still has its positives.
Wild Card Format Benefits
Although the National League race created a nightmare scenario for Major League Baseball, the other race was the exact reason for the new format.
Four teams had a legitimate shot at a wild card berth all the way to the last game of the season. All four teams were clearly not good enough to win their division, but played well enough to deserve a shot at the postseason.
Given the repetitive 162 game schedule, MLB needs any reason to keep fans interested throughout the season. The new wild card format has done a great job of doing so.
One possible change in the MLB wild card could come from college baseball. In the College World Series, teams that are 3-0 playing for a chance to reach the final need to lose twice to the 2-1 team in order to be eliminated.
For instance, the Dodgers would have needed to lose twice to St. Louis in order to be eliminated.
This adds an extra reason for teams in wild card contention to play at the end of the season. The first wild card spot is essentially like winning a playoff game.
Many proposals include a wild card series. The problem with this proposal is that it gives the teams that won their division a massive competitive advantage. Although those teams deserve some sort of advantage, a three game playoff series would destroy the wild card team’s rotation and bullpen before the division series even starts.
The proposed format provides the best balance of an advantage for the number one wild card team and the teams that won their division.
The biggest downside to the proposal is with the situation that played out in the American League. What if the two wild card teams tie?
The season series should be the tie breaker but it is a little unfair to have that determine who only needs one win. Yet, this situation is very rare and should not deter Major League Baseball from considering changes to the current format.
The Dodgers covered several flaws with the system, but that doesn’t mean MLB shouldn’t take a long, hard look at their format this offseason.
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