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Slammin' Sammy: The Wild Card race should mean something in MLB

August 9, 2011

You never hear a father tell his son “Strive for second” or “Do everything you can to finish second.” The same should be applied to Major League Baseball. But it seems every year once a team realizes it can’t win a division, it aims for the wild card position.
Why wouldn’t they? Winning the wild card is just as good as winning the division.
There is penalty or drawback of winning the wild card. If a team wins the wild card, they have just as good of a chance to win the World Series as a team that wins their division.
The Florida Marlins (1997 and 2003), the Anaheim Angels (2002) and the Boston Red Sox (2004) have all won the World Series after winning the wild card in their respective leagues.
The World Series was won by a wild-card team in three consecutive years: 2002, 2003 and 2004. A wild-card team appeared in the World Series in six consecutive years from 2002 to 2007.
As of last year, the Red Sox have the most wild-card appearances with seven.
When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was their first series win since 1918. But before they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games, they had to go through the New York Yankees.
After trailing three games to none, the Red Sox won the next four games to win the ALCS, a feat that had never been done before in any sport.
However, could you imagine if the Red Sox — or any wild card winner for that matter — had to defeat one more team in a series before the division series.
Back in April, MLB expressed support for adding two playoff teams in 2012, in which the wild-card round be the best-of-3 or winner-take-all.
Because longer series would push playoffs deeper into cold weather, the sides are not considering having the new first round be best-of-5 or best-of-7.
Commissioner Bud Selig said “there’s a myriad of details to work,’ during the annual meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Since 1995, eight of the 30 baseball teams make the playoffs. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance to the post season.
Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, reported “In the new format, the two wild cards in each league would meet, and the winners would advance to the following round against division winners.”
I say they should take the top two teams out of the wild card race for each league and make them play each other for a “play-in” series before the actual playoffs began.
Sort of the same system the NCAA uses for collegiate basketball.
That way winning the wild card is more of a consolation prize than more like a division. If you take the top two teams — besides the division winners — and pit them together for a three-game series.
Each team would play at their respective home field once and which ever team had the better record would receive the home field advantage if the series was to go all three games.
While it may upset some of the baseball purists, a change is not always a bad thing. A longer post season, the sport might actually draw more more interest as fans would talk more, watch more and even be involved in more fantasy leagues.
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Sam Pierce is the Sports Editor for the Saline Courier. He can be reached at sports2@bentoncourier.com or 315-8228 ext. 257.

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