It was Mae West, the original Hollywood sexpot, who said that “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” I’m guessing that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig probably agrees with that assessment on some level, now that he’s agreed to expand the league’s postseason to include 10 teams, five from each league.
The new system will work like this: Each league will add a second wild card qualifier. The two wild card qualifiers will then play in a one-game playoff, with the winner facing the division champion with the best regular season record.
The timing of the announcement is ironic to say the least. It was only last September that fans of the game — myself included — were crowing over the thrilling finish to the regular season. As late as September 28, 2011, the last day of the 2011 regular season, four teams (Atlanta, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Boston) were still vying for two playoff spots.
By the time the night was over, the St. Louis Cardinals had captured the National League’s wild card slot after overcoming a 10.5-game deficit to the Braves. In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays roared from seven runs down to beat the Yankees but weren’t propelled into the postseason until the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox later that night in Baltimore.
Consider for a moment if the new playoff system had been in place last year. All of the excitement of do-or-die baseball would have been gone, as the Rays, Red Sox, Braves and Cardinals would have all qualified for the one-game playoff. What was touted as the most thrilling conclusion in the history of regular season baseball wouldn’t have mattered a jot. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a bug or a feature.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.