MLB’s Wild-Card Game Is Loved and Loathed

BOSTON — The wild-card recreation is just not truthful. Lengthy reside the wild-card recreation.

These may be contradictory opinions, but it surely all relies on your perspective. When you’re a participant, you hate it. When you’re a viewer, you adore it.

“Is it truthful? No, it’s not truthful,” Curtis Granderson, the previous main league outfielder, stated on Tuesday. “Is it enjoyable? Completely.”

The Yankees and the Boston Pink Sox had been scheduled to play the American League wild-card recreation at Fenway Park on Tuesday, adopted on Wednesday by the Nationwide League recreation between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. The winner of every advances to a division collection, which means that the Dodgers are already dealing with elimination regardless of tying their franchise record for victories with 106.

The reason being a quirk: As nice because the Dodgers had been, they performed in the identical division because the San Francisco Giants, who had been one recreation higher. The Cardinals wanted solely 90 victories to share the stage.

“If I’m enjoying on a group that simply gained 100 video games, I wish to have the best to be on the market and form of stretch my probabilities for at the very least three video games — not only one and achieved,” stated the Corridor of Famer Pedro Martinez, who will analyze the playoffs for TBS with Granderson and Jimmy Rollins. “The efforts of my whole group, my whole group, happening the drain by shedding one recreation? One little mistake?”

Martinez gained his solely championship with a wild-card group, the 2004 Pink Sox. Again then, baseball gave a wild-card berth to only one group in every league, and the playoffs began with the best-of-five division collection. The format modified in 2012, with every league staging a knockout recreation between two wild playing cards to open the postseason.

The video games have typically introduced excessive drama: rollicking comebacks in Kansas Metropolis and Washington, a walk-off homer by Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto, two highway shutouts by Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. No matter you consider the format, its pull is irresistible.

“I’m going to observe each video games, and I’m going to get pleasure from them as a spectator,” stated Bud Black, who has gained a wild-card recreation and misplaced one other because the Colorado Rockies’ supervisor. “However when it’s over that rapidly — bam, you’re achieved. You’d prefer to have an opportunity to indicate why you bought into the playoffs with at the very least three video games. I feel that’s the perspective of any participant, supervisor, basic supervisor, coach. However from a fan’s standpoint, they’re nice.”

Ought to baseball preserve the wild-card recreation as a result of it’s a lot enjoyable? Or kill it as a result of it’s a gimmicky means for a group to danger its season? In the end, it appears, neither query is related.

As Main League Baseball and the gamers’ union negotiate a brand new collective bargaining settlement, they are going to strongly take into account increasing the playoffs. Creating extra content material is a straightforward strategy to increase income, and final yr’s 16-team area — a money seize after a 60-game common season — presents a template.

“I assumed final yr was fairly cool,” Black stated. “I do know it was a distinct yr with the pandemic, but when someway by means of negotiations we might shorten the season a bit — not a lot, 152, 154 video games, regardless of the quantity is — add one other group or two and play two out of three, I feel that works. And possibly with that time-frame, not as many days off between collection. Make it just like the common season: You play consecutive video games, you get on a airplane, you play the subsequent day. These issues might be labored out, so that you don’t drag it out an important deal.”

For many of baseball historical past, the regular-season champions of every league superior on to the World Sequence. The 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers (104-50) had a fair higher profitable proportion than this yr’s Dodger group, however misplaced the N.L. pennant to the Cardinals.

“I used to be with the Cubs once we had been nosed out on three or 4 championships, however that is the toughest factor I’ve ever gone by means of,” Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman stated within the subsequent day’s Brooklyn Eagle. “Once you win 104 video games and end second, there isn’t something to say.”

The format lastly modified in 1969, when baseball break up into 4 divisions and added the League Championship Sequence. That was the one playoff spherical by means of 1993, when the Giants gained 103 video games however misplaced the N.L. West by a recreation to Atlanta.

“You simply accepted it,” stated Black, who pitched for the Giants then. “We had been conditioned to that: You both win your division or not. However it was such yr and we performed so properly, we did really feel just a little shorted.”

Whereas Black stated he felt for the 2021 Dodgers, others from his period don’t. Ken Singleton, who retired final weekend as a Yankees broadcaster, as soon as performed for six second-place groups in an eight-year span with Baltimore. In 1980, the Orioles gained 100 video games however misplaced the A.L. East to the Yankees; they’d have welcomed even a one-game playoff ticket.

“Who is aware of, we’d have gone on to win the World Sequence — however there was no wild card in these days,” Singleton stated. “The Dodgers are within the playoffs. We weren’t. So I don’t have a lot sympathy for them.”

4 groups have used the wild-card recreation to launch a run to the World Sequence, with the 2014 Giants and the 2019 Nationals profitable the championship. Singleton stated he hoped the playoff format would keep as it’s, as a result of the postseason can stretch to November already. He doesn’t thoughts that the unbalanced schedule places an emphasis on divisional play.

“When the Pink Sox gained the division in 2018, they went 16-3 in opposition to the Orioles,” Singleton stated. “When the Yankees gained in 2019, they went 17-2 in opposition to the Orioles. And this yr, the Rays went 18-1 in opposition to them. So in a means, the Orioles maintain the important thing to the division. When you play nice in opposition to them, you’re going to win.”

The Orioles misplaced 110 games this season, tying with the Arizona Diamondbacks for probably the most within the majors. And the way did the Giants and the Dodgers do in opposition to the Diamondbacks within the N.L. West?

The Giants beat them 17 instances, and the Dodgers beat them 16 instances. That one recreation was the distinction within the division.

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