A third-place team winning the World Series?
That’s the reality when baseball adds two more teams to the playoffs with a one-game wild card round — starting either next year or 2013. Yes, one-third of baseball’s 30 teams will qualify for the playoffs.
But don’t be so quick to rip the idea for diluting the importance of a 162-game schedule.
Five Wild Card teams have won the World Series since 1997, with your Florida Marlins benefiting twice — in ’97 and 2003.
But the expanded round of one-game would be played between the two wild card teams in each league. “Puts premium on winning division…,” former Marlin Aaron Boone wrote on his Twitter account.
Boone’s sentiment was echoed by Justin Verlander, the American League Cy Young Award winner. “I like concept of adding wild card team for playoffs. Gives advantage to teams winning their division – don’t have to play in 1 gm playoff,” he wrote on Twitter.
Bottom line: Want to be sure to reach the post-season? Simple — win the division.
Marlins catcher John Buck, the team’s union rep, pointed to the wild and crazy final game of the 2011 season — when four different games determined two playoff spots within a span of five hours — as a reason why fans should embrace the new playoff format.
“That was pretty exciting,” Buck said in a text message. “I think when you have one of those in every division, it will create some excitement for the game, so I like it.”
Buck also remembers playing for the Toronto Blue Jay in 2010 in the competitive American League East. The Jays finished fourth at 85-77, four games behind Boston. His point: the new format will give hope for even more teams and fans, making September more relevant than it has been in the past for many markets.
“People can be critical. I understand that,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “It will be dramatic.”
One final thought: If there had been an expanded format just two years ago, it would’ve created lots of excitement in South Florida. The 2009 Marlins finished in second place at 87-75. They would’ve missed the playoffs by one game — with the wild card Colorado Rockies (92-70) playing the San Francisco Giants (88-74).