Friday, September 30, 2011

Teixeira wrong about wild card additions

Remember that glorious high we all we were feeling around midnight on Wednesday due to the trio of fantastic baseball games deciding the wild card teams in both leagues? It can happen every year if Major League Baseball implements a one-game play-in and adds two more wild card teams, which they seem to be leaning toward doing. But not everyone thinks it’s such a great idea.

Mark Teixeira said such a change would be unfair to great teams because they could be forced to play teams with lesser records in sudden-death games and have their seasons and playoff hopes crushed by one bad call or break in a game. Sorry Tex, but I just don’t agree.

While his scenario certainly could happen, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason not to make a change. First of all, such unfairness is already inherent in the game. How many times have we seen a team head for the playoffs even though a team with a better record heads home simply because they have the misfortune of being in a tougher division? In 2008, the New York Mets, the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals all missed the playoffs even though they had better records than the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2010, the New York Yankees won five more games in the regular season than the Texas Rangers, but went into the playoffs as the wild card (without home field advantage in any series) because the Tampa Bay Rays were one game better.

The Yankees first baseman thinks Wednesday’s finish is proof that baseball doesn’t need fixing. But that kind of wild, exhilarating finish doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, it’s never happened before in baseball. The only finish that has come close in recent history was the epic 12-inning marathon Game 163 between the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins in 2009, a game that I spent five hours in a hotel room watching because I simply could not leave before someone won. Imagine having that feeling every year, twice over because it’s happening in both leagues.

Tex is absolutely right when he says that baseball is doing it for the money. The ratings and advertising dollars make two Game 163s every year an attractive proposition for baseball and its television partners. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it. Adding those extra wild card teams would create excitement that would drive people to their TV sets. The thrill of watching four teams battle in sudden-death matches for the right to advance would ensure that the good feelings we had on Wednesday can be replicated year in and year out.

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