Right off the bat, I’ll acknowledge that I don’t mind what the second wild card has given us in the AL. Just one win separated three different teams. The team with the most wins gets a significant advantage, the other two play a tie-breaker. If the Rays win tonight and make it to the ALDS, no one will be able to say they didn’t earn it.
The NL is a whole different story.
This past Friday, the Pirates led the Reds by one game going into the final weekend of the season. Now, one game isn’t a huge lead, but it’s a lead nevertheless. The Pirates and Reds played in the same division, which means they faced almost exactly the same opposition. In head-to-head play, they were 8-8. That’s about as close as two teams can get without actually being tied, but the fact remains that the Pirates were just a little bit better.
In that final series, the Pirates won all three games. It didn’t matter, of course. Even though they were playing the same team that they were going to face in the Wild Card playoff, the Pirates could do no more than secure home-field advantage in that one game. In particular, the last game of the series was completely, totally, utterly meaningless.*
*Yes, I realize that many teams play a meaningless game 162 every year. What bothers me is that the Pirates played a meaningless game 162 against the same exact team that they’d play in a very very meaningful Wild Card game two days later.
They finished the season at 94-68, well ahead of the Reds at 90-72. In fact, the Pirates had a better record than the NL West champion Dodgers, at 92-70.
Nevertheless, the Reds have a shot to knock the Pirates off with a single win in the Wild Card game. According to MLB, victory in that one game trumps a four-game advantage over the entire regular season.
It makes for exciting baseball, sure. Still, if the Pirates’ run this year comes to an end because they lose one game to a clearly inferior (by record) Reds team, a team that they just swept in Cincinnati, I won’t be happy.
Get rid of the second Wild Card already.