Growing up as a Twins fan, I never felt the need for a Wild Card system in baseball, in part because I saw my team win two World Series’ in a five-year span (1987, 1991), by winning the then-AL West and then advancing in a best-of-seven ALCS (they only needed five games in both).
As I got older I became something of a baseball traditionalist, and was somewhat (but not vehemently) opposed to the expanded playoff system of the mid-90s.
There’s a reason the MLB season is so ridiculously long (162 games), and that is to ensure the best team(s) emerge over the long haul. Prior to 1970 there were no playoffs at all, no divisions even. Whoever finished with the best record in the AL played whoever had the best record in the NL in the World Series. What need is there for playoffs when you’ve already had 162 games to decide who’s the best team?
That’s still probably true, but it also, of course, means less money for owners and less interest from fans. I get that.
But one thing I realize I overlooked in poo-pooing the further expansion of playoffs (10 teams now qualify, up from 8, up from 4, up from 2) is, well, it means more baseball.
This postseason has been fantastic and we’re not even to the LCS’s yet. I don’t like the one game Wild Card, because I think if a team makes the playoffs, its fans deserve to have at least one home game (though I do like that it places more importance on winning your division), but there’s something to be said for the drama of a do-or-die game, and the two ALDS and NLDS series’ have both been phenomenal. Watching the Twins all summer almost made me forget how thrilling great baseball can be.
When the Cards knocked off the Pirates last night and they began celebrating, I thought to myself, ‘Man, the Cards are back in the World Series again!’.
Then I realized that no, they’re not. Not yet. There’s still another whole best-of-7 series they have to get through before the World Series. And that made me happy.
These playoffs are going to take forever, and while that might be torture if you’re a baseball-hating mouth-breather, it’s pretty great for those of us who love October baseball.