Thursday, September 16, 2010

I have company in disliking the wildcard

In both 2009 and 2007, I criticized the baseball wild card, arguing that it eliminates close races among the top teams in the league, since both will end up in the post-season, in favor of close races among a lot of lesser teams. Turns out I am not alone in this view. Tom Scocca of Slate makes the same argument, pointing out that the intense back-and-forth between the Yankees and Rays (Rays currently 1/2-game up, following a recent Yankees slide) is nearly meaningless, since the loser makes the play-offs as the wild card.

Scocca does something cute here: He shows the would-have-been standings in the pre-1994 two-division set-up. The result: The Yankees and Rays in the AL East fighting for one play-off spot and separated by 1/2-game with 17 left to play and five teams in the NL West fighting for one spot and separated by three games. And both races would be truly do-or-die: Only one team in each division can make the post-season.

Scocca ultimately reaches the same conclusion as me: More teams (and their fans) get into the post-season, but at the loss of truly winner-take-all competition.