I Already Hate You, Second Wild Card Spot


The future:  Sure, it may have intensified global temperatures, endless war, and the occasional catpocalypse, but what does it hold for post season Major League Baseball?

What better time to discuss Bud Selig’s push for two more Wild Card spots to extend the playoffs than the present, when current games are just not exciting enough without an additional round or series or however the hell they plan on doing it.

The appeal for me is to look at the standings and know for certain who is standing mightily atop their division.  Obviously, that’s the appeal for any fan of a contender, rather than the sad sacks with poor posture dreading their daily glance at the 2010 Cardinals’ playoff chances.

The Wild Card has always been a bit of a “wild card” in this sense (Ooooh, I get it).

It’s made up of the jackals, the vultures, the scavengers.  With the bones of victory picked clean, the Wild Card teams approach the carcass with caution, making sure the dominant beasts have had their go.  Then, there is a quick shifty-eyed glance at the growing number of starved competitors before the feeding frenzy snaps to life.

The later into the season we get, the more it descends into a pit of manic win-watching; teams scrambling, squealing, stepping on each other’s heads; the air syrupy with desperation and the stench of month-old bodily fluids starting to solidify.

The Wild Card is nothing but raw, sheer forces of will colliding with increasing intensity, as they compete in a “division” that can see seven or eight teams clamoring to the bone for a thin slice of glory.

So, obviously, let’s split it in half.

Don’t try to tell me that a second Wild Card spot gives fresh new markets hope for the playoffs.  Don’t tell me that the Orioles’ ears perked up when they realized they could be playing in a division where three of their rivals make the playoffs, and they, while performing almost a complete turnaround, still got to stay at home and think about how it was all for nothing.

Well, let’s say Bud Selig jerked his wishes onto MLB this year as a final set of middle fingers to us.  What would that have meant?

Oh, we’d see the Red Sox and Padres in the post season.  That last game of the year, when the Giants and Padres (and Braves) were playing to determine which one out of the three of them was going to spend the night looking forlorn and not speaking to reporters, wouldn’t have really been any kind of story.

And think back even further to 2008.  A second spot would pass the Yankees (those poor, poor Yankees) right into the playoffs with a wink and a smile, while Mets would have been awarded a slot after suffering the worst collapse in MLB history.


More baseball!

I have kind of a beard.  It’s an unkempt mess of crap spawning directly out of my desire to never shave again, but luckily, it happens to be October, a month that I can just say “playoff beard” and everyone will think it is endearing and fun instead of lazy and itchy.  Until I go to a wedding and look like I slaughtered my way through a series of kindly hearted motorists who offered me a ride (one of whom must have been wearing a tuxedo that is now mine).

But when you slap a label on something that identifies it as something it isn’t, that’s what you get:  murdered by a hitchhiker.

(Word count is telling me that last sentence brought me up to 666 words, by the way.  I don’t know what that means, but… be careful out there.  Don’t stop to pick up anybody with even a hint of demonic tendencies or played by Gabriel Byrne, I guess).

Benefiting from this new playoff slot in each league would be fans trapped in divisions with financial behemoths.  What that means is the Yankees and Red Sox would pretty much be assured post season berth every year unless they have a drunk horse for a GM or an even more terrible A.J. Burnett on their pitching staff.

Teams really swallowing rusty nails at the finish line every year–you know the ones; they hail from Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington–aren’t going to benefit much from this at all, and will keep chugging along, trying to build something out of draft picks, farm systems, and other teams’ unwanted spare parts.

Meanwhile, the marginal demographic loving this supplemental special placement could be your Marlins, maybe Cubs or Astros, maybe Blue Jays, depending on how the Rays look after they’ve lopped a couple of limbs off.  And even then, will this be the intense draw to the team’s fans expected?

Remember, there’s been baseball in Florida for 17 years now and still, nobody cares, even after the Marlins and Rays combined for four playoff berths and three World Series appearances, two of which were wins.  And the Rays won their division a few weeks ago.

Letting more people into the festivities waters down the experience.  I would point to the NBA where more than 50% of all the teams in the league get to try to win it all.  Some of these teams look like they’re ending a marathon on their hands and knees, just happy to cross the finish line, until one of the better, richer, stronger runners stomps on their fragile head.  That’s the direction this is all headed in.  We’re not there yet, far from it, but it’s the same direction.

What I’m saying in my own roundabout, barely comprehensible way is that Selig seems to be dropping this idea on us as he’s headed out the door, and it reads like a quick fix to a problem that doesn’t exist; or at least, shouldn’t be at the top of his list.

If increasing viewership to expand markets and/or compete with the start of the NFL season is the goal, then this solution is Bud Selig’s playoff beard: Eventually, it’s going to cause problems of its own.  Or at least cause discomfort.