MLB Wilcard has underestimated importance to post-season play

Chris Carmona

Many baseball purists claim that the Wild Card takes away from the integrity of baseball. To a young, but very informed, fan of baseball, I must passionately disagree with this claim. There is no definitive reason not to hold a Wild Card, and in fact most purists simply dislike the Wild Card system because it was only recently brought into the league in 1995.

Just because a team does not win a division does not mean it is not merited a playoff birth. The Boston Red Sox, for example, have a significantly higher winning percentage than the Minnesota Twins, but because the Twins play in a weaker division, they were guaranteed a postseason birth. This inequity in baseball was unavoidable until the creation of the Wildcard system. The Wildcard not only more evenly disperses postseason availability, it also increases excitement in regular season games. This holds true most prominently in the second half of the season.

Without the Wild Card, teams in divisions with one particularly strong team give up hope of life after the regular season.

A perfect example of this would be the National League East this season. The Atlanta Braves practically clinched the division in late July, leaving little excitement for other contending teams such as the Marlins and the Phillies. Had the Wild Card not existed, neither team would have battled in August and September the way that they had, and the enthusiasm of crowd support would have inevitably declined. Essentially, the Wild Card has not only a positive effect on the level of play of many teams, but also improves the fan base and economics of baseball.

Now should one deny these inarguable facts and still stubbornly claim that the Wild Card is nothing but a plague on the holy game of baseball, he can rest assured knowing that Wild Card teams usually receive the shaft for postseason opponents. In 1998, Major League Baseball altered its postseason rules to ideally deter the chances of a Wild Card team unfairly advancing in the playoffs.

The new rule gave home field advantage to the division winners with the best records. So should the Wild Card team have the second best record in the league, it still is unable to obtain any sort of home field advantage.

Along with this rule, the Wild Card team must play the division winner with the best winning percentage (given the team is not in the same division).

As if this did not hinder the Wild Card team’s chances of winning enough, the division championship series was changed from a two home and three away game schedule to a two home, two away, and another home game schedule. This new rule seems justifiable if not condonable, as the better team should have the deserved advantage, but this diluted rule follows the postseason all the way to the league championship series. If a Wild Card team with a higher winning percentage plays a division champion, the division champ still obtains the home field advantage. Many fans may agree with this rule, but I simply find it illogical and unfair.

And so it has been proven that the Wild Card is, indeed, a healthy addition to the postseason of Major League Baseball. Even if one denies this fact, he must regrettably admit that the rules established for the post season create what a demented purist would deem an appropriate and fair way to allow the Wild Card contender to grace the postseason stage. With that being said, we can sit back and enjoy the strong defense and phenomenal pitching of the young Marlins and more importantly, the Boston – New York rivalry unfold before us, all thanks to the Wild Card.