Saturday, April 23, 2011

Scocca on the expanded wild card

Tom Scocca at Slate, who shares my antipathy for the baseball wild card for most of the same reasons (as well as a couple I had not thought of), argues that the new proposal to add a second wild card actually turns out to be a good second-best option (the best option being eliminating the wild card altogether, which, unfortunately, is not going to happen).

As Scocca explains, the already-overstuffed schedule, along with MLB's recognition that things cannot go any deeper into November or earlier into March, means that the addition "wild-card round" must be short--one game or at most two-out-of-three. Weird things can happen in a short series. So this creates a meaningful incentive--currently missing--for a top team to win the division rather than settling for the wild card--avoid that short series. It also means that the two best second-place teams go head-to-head, rather than "battling" one another by proxy against very different (particularly in difficulty) schedules.

True, it also may mean more 87-win teams in the playoff race every year. But again, this is just a second-best option.