Yes, this is a post about how I don't like the one game Wild Card playoff and Terence Moore does. Yes, I still hate it even after the exciting one game Wild Card playoff game this year. "Hate the sin, love the sinner." That's my motto about the one game Wild Card playoff. It's exciting as a one game series, but I prefer it as a three game series, mostly because I think a 162 game season shouldn't be decided by a one game playoff.
Terence Moore has written his annual "I love this new one game Wild Card playoff" column. I'm not kidding, it's an annual thing. The one game Wild Card playoff was instituted in 2012 and he's written about it every year since. Here is Terence's 2012 column about it. Here is Terence's 2013 column about it. Now we have the 2014 version of this column. What makes it better this time is Terence goes overboard and starts over-praising Bud Selig for his wonderful vision to set up a one game Wild Card playoff. I greatly dislike the one game Wild Card playoff. I think it's dumb to take a 162 game season and condense it down to one game. Sure, it gives division winners a reward for winning the division, but not really. Prior to the one game playoff, division winners got to host the Wild Card team in the Divisional Series. They still get to host the Wild Card team in the Divisional Series. Nothing gained, nothing lost. One division winner gets the same reward they received prior to the one game playoffs, it's just they don't have to play in a one game Wild Card playoff they never had to play in previous to 2012 anyway. The seedings don't change with the new second Wild Card.
Of course Terence loves the idea because MLB.com is affiliated with MLB and he has to pretend to like the change to an expanded playoff format. It's the same reason Terence writes a column about how the All-Star Game is just so great.
So on to Terence's 2014 "The One Game Wild Card Playoff is Great" columns with some extra Bud Selig love. I've always appreciated Bud Selig's reign as MLB Commissioner more than others have, but I do draw a line at taking the time to expound at just how wonderful he has been. He's had great successes and great failures. There will be worse commissioners and there will be better commissioners. So onto how great the terrible one game Wild Card playoff game is.
It's nearly mid-September after a lengthy spring and summer of baseball,
but from now through the end of the month, there will be a slew of
Thank you, Mr. Selig.
Yes, because there were never any significant games played down the stretch prior to 2012. The final day of the 2011 season never happened. Now that there is a one game Wild Card playoff, teams that wouldn't be in the hunt for the second Wild Card (teams that don't have as good of a record as the team getting the first Wild Card) will now be able to ignore their 162 game record entirely and get a chance with one game to steal the Wild Card spot the first Wild Card team earned over the entire season.
So far in the two years of the extra Wild Card two of the four teams have playing in the Wild Card game have had the same record. The two Wild Card games that involved teams with different records had a record differential of 4 and 6 wins. So with that small sample size, I can come to the conclusion only half the time the first Wild Card team will have earned the Wild Card spot over the season and shouldn't have to play an extra game.
If there is not a large gap in the record of the first and second Wild Card team, the second Wild Card would not add any more significant games to the month of September since these two teams would be fighting for the one Wild Card spot under the system prior to 2012. See how it works? If there is more drama post-2012, it's because teams are fighting for the second Wild Card spot that the first Wild Card team (potentially) rightfully earned over 162 games. If there was less drama prior to 2012 then there was still be a dogfight for a Wild Card spot during the month of September. The difference being one team (the second Wild Card team) now gets a chance to play one more game to prove they should be in the playoffs. Otherwise, nothing is different. At the expense of more drama, which I am not against, an entire season is broken down into one game. I am against that. Make the Wild Card playoff a three game series and I will be much happier. Rant not done.
The Tigers have spent the last few days in Detroit fighting for their
American League Central lives against the Royals, and Comerica Park has
been rocking when it hasn't been rolling. You can expect much of the
same this weekend in San Francisco.
This would have happened regardless of whether there was a second Wild Card team or not. These teams would have been fighting for the division regardless. And no, winning the division doesn't mean "more" now. It means no more or no less. It means the same thing. The team with the best record plays the Wild Card team and the teams with the 2nd and 3rd best record play each other. Same as before, no matter what Terence Moore says or tries to make it seem like.
There, inside the orange-and-black noise factory that will be AT&T
Park, the Giants and the Dodgers will continue their rivalry. This time,
they're trying to sprint past the other toward the finish line of the
National League West.
Again, this wouldn't have changed if there was no second Wild Card team because these are teams fighting to win their division. In fact, the team that didn't win the division has more of a fallback to not winning the division in that they know there is now another Wild Card spot they could earn.
So when reporters asked Houston interim manager Tom Lawless earlier
this week if he planned to use a lot of his September callups the rest
of the way, which is what most non-contending teams do this time of
year, Lawless emphatically said no.
He added, "While we're playing these games in the playoff hunt, it's
not fair to everybody else [to play callups]. We're going to try to win
the game, bottom line."
Though it is fair to mention the Astros trying to win a game is different from other MLB teams trying to win a game. Lawless also didn't mention that he would have played callups if the Astros were playing teams who weren't in the playoff hunt. Maybe that is supposed to be understood.
Even out-of-the-running teams remain motivated these days.
That's sort of reaching a little bit. More teams in the hunt for a playoff spot doesn't seem so bad overall. A one game playoff to decide which teams gets to advance does seem so bad to me. It takes an entire season of performance and distills it into one game where ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!
We're back to Mr. Selig, otherwise known as Bud, or the Baseball
Commissioner, if you prefer. Interleague Play. Expanded replay. Old-new
ballparks. Three divisions in each league. The toughest drug policy
among the major sports leagues in North America. Everywhere you look,
you see the visionary mind of the retiring Selig,
I mean, I guess. These all seem like ideas that Terence Moore would normally despise, so I can't help but wonder if his love for these changes to the game are in some way inspired by his employment with MLB.com. Sure, they don't write his columns for him, but they also can't have one of their own columnists bashing most of the commissioner's signature ideas. That doesn't look good.
who keeps dragging the game's traditionalists (my hand is raised) into
the 21st century. That's why it isn't surprising that his decision two
years ago to add a second Wild Card for each league to the postseason is
the gift that keeps on giving and giving … and giving some more.
I recognize it's a matter of opinion, but what exactly has the second Wild Card given? It does put more teams in contention for the chance to play one more game and "make the playoffs," which is bullshit since "the playoffs" in the case of the Wild Card game is one game, but other than that it hasn't enhanced or changed the playoff format in any way. The second Wild Card allows more teams a chance to compete for a one game playoff. That's the gift and it is given during the span of one game and then the postseason goes back to exactly how it was when there was only one Wild Card team.
For starters, more than half of the 30 Major League teams either are
pretty much assured a playoff berth through winning their division or
own a decent chance right now of playing in October courtesy of one of
those Wild Card spots.
Great, more teams have been given the illusion of success through the process of the MLB playoffs being expanded. Unfortunately, for one of these teams the elation will last one more game and then it will be over. A 90 win team may get beaten by an 85 win team in a one game playoff and the new Wild Card system will be a success. This is because more teams were involved in the competition for that Wild Card spot and success over the entire season was essentially ignored in favor of a one game playoff.
And in baseball, one game playoffs are not the best way to determine which is the better team. Baseball is not like the other major sports where one game can show the strength of a team. In baseball, the strength of a team could lie in the rotational starting pitching depth they have and this is what makes them a good team. Using a one game playoff to determine which is the "better" team is misleading because one team could have a good starting rotation with no aces, while another team has Clayton Kershaw and four other below average starters. If Team A without the aces wins 90 games during the season, they have shown themselves to be the better team over 162 games. Yet Team B, who hypothetically won 85 games during the season, trots out Clayton Kershaw for the one game playoff and they are able to win the Wild Card game as a result. Did the Wild Card playoff just erase 162 games of achievement through one game? Yes, it did. A one game playoff doesn't measure the strength of a team and that's mostly why I really dislike the one game Wild Card playoff that Terence Moore inexplicably likes so much. A one game playoff in baseball isn't just a crapshoot, it's the middle finger to how baseball is played over the other 162 games.
Then there are teams like the Astros, with one eye on next year, but
with the other on trying to gain momentum for 2015 by spoiling the
dreams of contenders.
Which they may be trying to do anyway if there was no second Wild Card.
Let that sink in. That already is more than enough to salute Selig for what he's done during his 23-year reign.
Congrats, Bud Selig! The liquor and the whores are being paid for by Terence Moore tonight! Also, can Terence have another raise?
There was nothing like this regarding impactful games. In fact, back
when there were Big Red Machines and Yankees dynasties led by Ruth,
DiMaggio or Mantle -- or even those years of a Miracle Mets-type team
here and there -- pennant races often consisted of, well, nobody, or
maybe a couple of teams fighting for one spot … or perhaps three or
four, but that was about it.
And then the Wild Card and divisional reorganization changed that. The idea the Wild Card game is a brilliant idea just eludes me. It's a contrived way of drumming up excitement and getting more teams involved in the Wild Card race. I'm not against another team from each league making the playoffs, but at least make it a 3 game series. Don't make it a one game series WHERE ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN that goes against what makes baseball great, which is the starting pitching depth one team may have, where they don't need an ace to win games because they are a good team. For me, a one game playoff goes against what baseball should be looking to reward when a team makes the postseason. If two teams are tied for a division lead, then a one game playoff makes sense. In the case of a one game Wild Card playoff where the two teams could have different records, a one game playoff makes less sense to me.
Then Selig added three divisions and a Wild Card for each league into
the mix in 1994. Under this system, the division winners were joined in
the playoffs by that Wild Card team, and it remained that way until
The Wild Card was an improvement in my opinion. Adding another Wild Card team can be an improvement, but it can't be done in a one game playoff that drums up drama and ignores the 162 game season that was just played.
Selig knew baseball's playoff system could become even greater than
that. So he added that second Wild Card team to each league before the
2012 season to create a "win-and-you're-in" game at the end of the
regular season for both the American League and the National League
involving their Wild Card teams.
Just make it a three game series, please. Even if the second Wild Card was taken away, there would still be drama for the race to the final Wild Card spot, but at least pretend the Wild Card game gives lip service to rewarding teams for their performance over 162 games by making it a three game series. Allow more than one starter for each team to decide if a team "wins-and-is-in."
It made a Wild Card spot something that a playoff-hopeful team would want only as a last resort.
No, it added another Wild Card spot to the playoffs for one game and one game only. Prior to 2012, were there a rash of teams not trying to win the division and intentionally only trying to win the Wild Card spot? Was I not aware of this happening? Were there MLB teams saying, "Fuck it, we don't want to win the division. We just want to make the playoffs, not have homefield advantage in the playoffs and play the best team in our league." I don't recall this happening. In fact, the second Wild Card (as we will see contained in a quote by Fredi Gonzalez) can give a team less incentive to win the division and aim for one of the Wild Card spots since there is an extra Wild Card spot open now.
Now division winners are relevant again.
They were relevant before. Just as relevant before as they are now. Teams that win their division, which is what all MLB teams were trying to do prior to 2012, still play in the Divisional Series just like they used to play in the Divisional Series. The seeding hasn't changed and homefield advantage hasn't changed. Division winners are as relevant as they were prior to 2012. It's just the value of the Wild Card has been diminished because a team that gets the Wild Card still has to play in the one game Wild Card round. Division winners don't have to play in this game, just like they didn't have to play in this Wild Card game when it didn't exist. Teams will still try to win the division, just like they tried to win the division prior to 2012.
Unlike Wild Card winners, division winners still are guaranteed the
chance to play more than just a single-elimination game during the
Which they were guaranteed prior to 2012 as well. Now there is no guarantee a team that wins one of the Wild Card spots will be able to play in the Divisional Series. That is the only change with the second Wild Card in place.
Elsewhere, the Pirates lead the Braves and the Brewers by 1 1/2 games
for the NL's second Wild Card spot, but you just know anybody with a "P"
on his cap in the Pirates' clubhouse would prefer to erase the
Cardinals' 4 1/2-game lead in the NL Central.
WHICH THEY WOULD HAVE WANTED TO DO EVEN IF THERE WAS NO SECOND WILD CARD! In fact, there is more incentive to erase the Cardinals divisional lead with one Wild Card spot because if the Pirates don't erase this lead then they don't have as good of a chance to make the playoffs. So in this case, an argument could be made winning the division is less important to the Pirates in 2014 than it was in 2011, because they know if they don't win the division in 2014 they still get one shot to make the Divisional Series that wasn't available to them in 2011.
"Our goal always is to win the [NL East], but the way things are right
now in baseball, just getting into the playoffs somehow at the end of
the season and finding a way to keep playing in October isn't bad," said
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team is nine games behind the
Feel the fury in Fredi Gonzalez's voice while the Braves desperately try to catch up with the Nationals! Wait, no that's not fury, that's resignation the Braves can't catch the Nationals and he's fine with just taking the second Wild Card spot. As usual, Terence Moore has provided information in his column that helps to submarine his main point. He says:
It made a Wild Card spot something that a playoff-hopeful team would want only as a last resort.
Thus the current obsession of the Tigers, Royals, Giants and Dodgers
with trying to capture their respective divisions as opposed to settling
for a Wild Card berth. Elsewhere, the Pirates lead the Braves and the
Brewers by 1 1/2 games for the NL's second Wild Card spot,
Meanwhile Fredi Gonzalez, the manager of one of those teams that would only want the Wild Card spot as a last resort and would be obsessed with trying to capture their respective divisions, says, "Eh, I want to win the division, but the way MLB has the Wild Card system set up then it doesn't matter if we win the division as long as we are still playing when it comes time for the playoffs."
See the brilliance of Bud Selig and the one game Wild Card playoff? Teams are now desperate to win their division, unless that seems too hard, in which case the new Wild Card spot will suffice perfectly. Feel the tension and feeling of "the division is our last resort" Fredi Gonzalez has.
"If we get in as a [Wild Card] team, and if we all of a sudden run the
table and win the World Series, you're good with that, right?
FEEL THE DESPERATION TO WIN THE DIVISION! IT'S PALPABLE!
Right, but the odds of that happening aren't the best anymore.
Actually, the odds of receiving a berth in the playoffs through the Wild Card have increased with the addition of the second Wild Card. It's not like a team that gets in the playoffs with the second Wild Card has a much more difficult gauntlet to run than a team that wins their division. The Wild Card teams have to win one more game than division winners have to win.
Which is good.
This was a paragraph by the way. Three words equals one sentence which equals an entire paragraph. Terence Moore must be proud of himself. Ready for another really short paragraph?
For nearly everybody.
Another three word sentence that equals a paragraph.
It probably seems petty, but I won't ever learn to love the one game Wild Card playoff. Make it a three game series and then I can get on-board with the idea.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Of course it wasn't. Terence Moore could just speak negative opinions on Bud Selig's job performance and no one at MLB.com would care.