Still think we don’t need a second wild card in Major League Baseball?
Out of nowhere, what were all-but-decided pennant races for most of the summer are now alive and kicking. Collapses by the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves, respectively, have brought both the American League and National League Wild Card slots back into play.
Entering play tonight, the Tampa Bay Rays are tied in the A.L. after the Red Sox once again lost to the Orioles. On the senior circuit, the St. Louis Cardinals are one back of the Braves.
Going into the weekend with six regular season games left we had six teams for two spots. But you know what? It would be even better if it were six teams for four spots. Let me explain.
The idea of a second wild card in each league has been proposed for years as a way to put more emphasis and initiative back on winning a division. The two best non-division winning teams would be placed in a three-game series or, more likely, a one-game playoff, with the winner actually advancing to the postseason.
Many have argued that this would steal suspense from the race. For example, the Bosox and Braves are sitting around now looking epic failure in the face. But with a second wild card, they’d pretty much at least be guaranteed the right to play themselves in, no matter what.
Don’t listen to that argument though. The second wild card would be better. Take the the N.L. for example. Let’s assume it’s a one-game playoff to get into the postseason. For the sake of the example, we’ll say the Braves and Giants get the two spots. OK, Atlanta has the better record and hosts the game. But the Giants get to throw Tim Lincecum, who hasn’t had a very good year but is still Tim Lincecum. San Fran might steal it all right then and there. And, as history tells us, you just need to be in the postseason to win the World Series (see, 2005 Cardinals).
Or in the A.L. – look, I understand most people don’t want to admit it, but the three best teams in that league are located in the Eastern Division. So why wouldn’t you want the Yankees, Sox and Rays all in? It just seems dumb to block a third-place team that may finish with a better record than both the other two division winners.
The second wild card should happen. These final few days will be proof.