Sunday, March 4, 2012

Purists' anger over new wild cards perplexing

I have to say that I’m quite surprised by all the vitriol thrown in Bud Selig’s direction over the news that Major League Baseball will add two more wild card teams and have the two wild cards in each league play a sudden-death elimination game for the right to advance further in the playoffs.

I love that more teams will have a chance to make the postseason, just as long as baseball doesn’t get too ridiculous and expands the playoffs to the point where half of all teams can get in on the playoff action. I love that the excitement that we saw on the last day of the 2011 regular season will be replicated every year. I love that division winners will have more of a reason to fight for that title rather than backing off and resting players, as Brian Cashman recently conceded that the New York Yankees did last season.

I don’t understand the furious arguments of the so-called baseball purists, mostly because in all honestly there has not been much pure about baseball in a long time. But there is a level of anger over the decision that is perplexing, most of it directed at Commissioner Selig. The silly name-calling is by far the worst as the personal attacks are juvenile and unnecessary. Can’t these people make their points without succumbing to hysteria? These changes are not going to ruin the sport, just as breaking each league into three divisions and adding the first wild cards did not break the game. The sport will adapt, the players will adapt, and most importantly, the fans will adapt because we are a resilient bunch, sticking with the sport even during its darkest days, which judging by the Ryan Braun situation will never truly be over.

To a certain extent, I do understand the concern about a third-place team winning the World Series. But that does not bother me as much as the idea of a first-place team in a weaker division winning a championship. Besides, what if that third-place team comes out of the toughest division in baseball: the American League East division? I can easily picture a scenario where the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays all finish the regular season within a few games of each other and with better records than the teams in other divisions. I would have no problem with a wild-card matchup that pits two of these teams against each other in a do-or-die situation. There would be no way to say that any of these teams don’t deserve a shot at the postseason. I would much prefer seeing a stronger third-place team play for a world title than a weaker first-place team simply benefitting from playing in a division with lesser competition.

But we all have our opinions about baseball’s latest changes and none is more valid than the other, despite whatever any of us think. Let’s just try to act like grown-ups when discussing them. 

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