Before 1968 the only playoff in baseball featured each pennant winner in the World Series. For nearly 25 years forward there was an added League Championship Series before finally instituting the eight-team, three-round playoff in 1995 that we have currently… that all changes this season.
Major League Baseball has announced they are expanding the playoffs to 10 teams, by adding one more wild card team from each league. The catch is that both wild card teams from each league won’t play a series, but a one-game playoff instead. The winner will then go on to host the first two games of the league division series.
"This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year," commissioner Bud Selig declared in a statement.
This playoff change obviously makes winning the division that much more crucial for each team in the post-season hunt. Win your division and you’re automatically in the Division Series. Finish second in the division and hopefully win one of the wild card slots and you still have to fight your way into the Division Series, which most likely also includes using your top pitching ace.
"One game? That's kind of crazy," Boston slugger David Ortiz said. "You know how many things we've got to move around and pack for one game? It'd make more sense for two wild cards to play at least a two-out-of-three series while the other teams take a break for three days because they won their divisions."
With dramatic wins by the Cardinals and the Rays late last season, many acknowledged the last night of the MLB season last fall the ‘greatest night baseball has ever seen.’ Now we could see that ‘Game seven’ type atmosphere every year, regardless of how tight the standings are.
If this system were in effect last season, we would have seen a Cardinals vs. Braves National League matchup, and a Rays vs. Red Sox pairing in the American League that would have determined—in one game – which teams moved on.
This is a great move by baseball; a move that was helped along due to the Astros’ transition from the NL Central to the AL West that goes into effect next year. That move creates a balance among all divisions, giving each five teams and thus securing that all organizations have the same chances of making the post-season.
Incredibly, since 2007 there have been three one-game tiebreakers following the regular season, most recently in 2009 when the Twins defeated the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings. All three games were one-run games and many report that these games have been some of the best they’ve ever watched.
Just think, come this October we could be watching some intense one-game battles for the opportunity to advance to the Division Series of the playoffs. Red Sox vs. Yankees? Giants vs Cardinals?
It will be incredible to see what happens when the ‘best night baseball has ever seen’ gets a repeat on an annual basis.
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