Friday, June 17, 2005


June 17th, 1993

Owners Vote to Expand Playoffs

This vote changed the playoffs to the format we know today, with three divisions (and division winners) in each league and a wild card team, and also fixed some geographic silliness, most notably moving Atlanta out of the NL West. I've never quite been sure if I like the newly arranged divisions--and the inclusion of the Wild Card--or not. The self-serving pragmatic part of me favors the Wild Card in seasons like this one when it appears it might help punch the Yankees' ticket to the playoffs. Of course, that's a double-edged sword, as the Wild Card team has now punched the Yankees’ ticket out of the playoffs for three years in a row.

Leaving aside my feelings as it relates to my team, I still can't decide what I think of the Wild Card. The main benefit of it is indisputable, that is, adding more teams to create a more competitive mix. The sometimes overlooked downside is less obvious, to wit, that it makes races like the Yankees and Red Sox of the last two years little more than a battle for home field advantage and to see who can stay/get healthy. The Yankees/Sox games maintain their luster, obviously, but a race between two teams with no history (such as the 1996 NL West) are simply dull.

I guess if I had to make a choice, I'd come down in favor of the Wild Card. While it has actually made more races into bores than created new and exciting ones (thanks to Joe Sheenan of the incomparable Baseball Prospectus for that bit of data) the trading of two teams going for one spot in exchange for three teams going for two strikes me as ultimately good for baseball, and as a baseball fan, I go with that.

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