The MLB Wild Card Game has it’s perks but expanding to three games delivers a much more complete and balanced format.
Believe it or not, the sixth season featuring the MLB Wild Card Game will take place next week. Baseball has had it’s collection of walk-offs, complete games and high drama in the one game spectacle thus far. There’s no doubt it adds an exciting, do or die element to the game. However, the game comes with it’s flaws.
Is a single game elimination really a fair and accurate way of determining which of two teams is superior? There’s an argument against it and we’ve listed three reasons in favor of expanding from a one to three game playoff.
The Power of Three
The six month MLB season is a collection of mostly three game sets. So, why not play a three game series to decide who the better team is?
It puts much more pressure on the way a club has to prepare–which pitcher starts which game, how aggressively is the bullpen taxed, the advantages of playing home versus away and the risks a team takes in preparing for the divisional round while trying to win the wild card round.
One and three game philosophies change completely and speak to how good a manager does his job, rather than just letting his ace lead the team to victory.
Speaking of ace’s, sending someone like Madison Bumgarner to the mound in a one game playoff is a near lock for victory. Theoretically, what if the Colorado Rockies win the NL Wild Card and the San Francisco Giants had finished as runners up? A one game playoff would occur at Coors Field, with Bumgarner likely leading his team to another victory. Now, if the Rockies finished with a better record, but had a disadvantage in one game, does that speak for how good of a team the Giants are or how good Bumgarner is?
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In a three game format, the Rockies theoretically would have a better chance to compete, like they would in a normal season series. An ace pitches once every five days, not every day, which reflects how will a team plays without their top dog on the mound.
This isn’t a knock against a highly successful Giants club that has achieved more success than any other team over the past decade, but it outlines an issue with playing just one game.
There’s a big difference between riding one player to victory versus a collective team effort that can be better exemplified in a three game set.
The Overrated “Win Your Division Narrative”
We hear it all the time–if you don’t want to play in the MLB Wild Card Game, then win your division.
Okay, let’s stop with this over used baseball cliche.
Just two years ago, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates finished with 98 and 97 wins, respectively. That was good for the second and third best records in the National League, ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.
So, two teams who had better records than two division winners get penalized with a one game playoff? That seems a little unfair.
Look, what happened with the Cubs and Pirates isn’t likely to happen often, but there will be times when the wild card winner has a better record than one or two other divisional winners and is subjected to a one game playoff against an inferior overall team with a superior ace. Why not give them a chance to prove they have the better team instead of a better frontline starter?
Adding another game or two means a few more millions in revenue and TV ratings for the MLB and team owners so it makes sense financially. Yes, the postseason, which already runs until early November on occasion, would be extended by about one week, but is that really a drastic change?
There is plenty of drama in a one game winner take all scenario, but that level of excitement would be just as high in a game three with identical stakes.