Friday, August 5, 2011

One-and-done wild card playoff a good idea

I like the idea of having a one-and-done wild card playoff in baseball. I think it addresses problems with baseball's current postseason format while not dragging the season out longer than necessary.

As it stands now, there is not much of a disadvantage to being the wild card team. If the New York Yankees, for example, end up losing the American League East division crown to the Boston Red Sox, it will hardly matter because both teams are headed for the playoffs, barring an unforeseen collapse of epic proportions (like what happened to the Mets two years in a row). Sure, the Yankees or the Saux would lose home-field advantage, but they are the top two road teams in baseball this year so I doubt they will lose any sleep over playing most of their postseason games on the other teams’ turfs.

On the other hand, if the wild card team had to play against another wild card team in a one-game playoff to determine which team marches on in the postseason, that would further intensify the battle for the AL East. I would imagine the Yankees would have even more incentive to try to beat Red Sox for the division or risk letting their fate come down to one game when an off night by a pitcher could end their season (no chance AJ Burnett would start a game with the season on the line, but even CC Sabathia could have a bad night).

I also like the one-and-done idea because it creates the lose-or-go-home pressure and excitement that makes these games so compelling (witness the Minnesota-Detroit marathon play-in game in 2009 that I spent four hours in a hotel room watching because I simply could not leave). A best of three series might be fairer to both wild card teams, but that scenario could push the baseball playoffs further into November, which I think Bud Selig and MLB would like to avoid.

So I’m all for a sudden-death matchup between two wild card teams. I think it would bring some excitement to a sport that definitely could use some more.

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