The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Monaco: Second wild card adds excitement (Sept. 10)

Mike Monaco | Sunday, September 9, 2012

For just a minute, let’s forget all his mishaps; instead, let’s give credit where credit is due.

Bud Selig has made his share of mistakes. The steroid era has been downright embarrassing and has tainted a generation of baseball. Oh, and it won’t permanently go away until the Hall of Fame fates of potential inductees such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are decided.

Selig cancelled the 1994 World Series and ended the 2002 All-Star Game in a tie.

He’s far from perfect.

But when he added a second wild-card team to each league, he got it absolutely spot-on correct.

Now, instead of having just one or two playoff races down the stretch at the end of September, every team is fighting for its spot in the postseason landscape. In powerful divisions like the AL East, there can be three playoff teams.

For example, the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are all within two games of one another in the standings. In years past, only two teams would have had the chance to advance to the playoffs. But this time around, we could reasonably have both wild cards come out of the same division.

The sheer number of teams that still have realistic playoff hopes has gone up as well after the addition of the second wild-card spot. In the American League, there are five teams within two games of each other, while a sixth (the Tigers) are just 4.5 games back of the first spot as of Sunday.

In the National League, the Braves are running away with the first wild card. But other teams are still in contention for that second position: the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates are separated by just 1.5 games, while two other teams are within 5.5 games.

In addition to increasing the number of teams fighting for postseason glory, Selig’s decision to add a second wild-card team made winning the division critical.

Previously, with four teams earning playoff berths in each league, it didn’t matter whether you made it as a division winner or the wild-card team. Sure, the home-field advantage for the first series might be a small incentive to go for division instead of wild card, but, for the most part, all playoff spots were created equal.

Now, however, getting a wild-card spot is not nearly as appetizing as winning the division. The two wild-card winners now square off in a one-game playoff to determine who advances into the divisional round of the playoffs. So in a division like the AL East, where there are often two playoff teams, winning the division crown matters.

In years past, we frequently saw division leaders with slim leads coast their way into October, because they knew at worst they would still be able to lock up the wild card spot and be no worse for wear. Well, coast no more. Winning the division is now a much greater incentive, and we have Bud Selig to thank.

Let’s face it: the MLB season is long and, at times, monotonous. Seeing teams give half-hearted efforts in the end of September was just a slap in the face to fans everywhere. But now, teams have to give it their all down to the wire if they are within range of the wild-card positions.

And lastly, how exciting are these one game wild-card playoffs going to be? One game. Win or go home. Teams will almost certainly trot out their staff aces, giving us outstanding pitching matchups with everything riding on this one game.

Here are some potential American League wild-card aces. Mix and match for your favorite one-game pitchers’ duel: David Price, Jered Weaver, C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander.

So while he’s made his mistakes, don’t be afraid to send Bud Selig a thank-you note sometime between now and the end of October.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.