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Wild Card Games Full of Electricity, but System Unfair: A Fan’s View

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Recapping Texas Rangers Fold – Why All These Collapses?: A Fan’s View
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Josh Hamilton swings at a pitch

The new wild card formula in major league baseball certainly has its merits. It compels teams to fight tooth and nail for a division crown, or else be subject to the one-game winner-take-all format. No one will argue those benefits are valuable.

Of course, more than one year is necessary to evaluate this system. It might result in great baseball races more time than not, might achieve exactly what is was developed to achieve. This year, however, with some evidence in hand thanks to the Cardinals defeating the Braves and the Orioles clubbing the Texas Rangers, it's hard to make a case that it's a fair, or necessary, system.

The necessary argument emerged from the American League pennant race, after which the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers were stuck together in a dead heat. With exactly the same record, they would have played for the wild card spot under last year's rules as well. You can't declare the Orioles would have eased off the throttle in the last month, because they needed every game - either to overtake the Yankees, or stay with other wild card contenders. The Rangers go home now, as they should after a collapse every bit as horrendous as the New York Mets a couple of years ago, and the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves last year - but they did have a better record than the Detroit Tigers by five games.

The real injustice happened in the National League, in which the Atlanta Braves won 94 games. That would have been enough in any other year to qualify for the playoffs, but this year they were forced to play a one-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a squad they bested by six games.

Nobody's crying for the Braves in the land of New York Mets this morning. Actually, probably no one outside of Atlanta gives a darn. But is this system meant to better reward good teams, or simply make more money via additional meaningful down-the-stretch games? Attendance and television ratings, we all suspect, is the overwhelming factor.

It doesn't help the Braves right now, who endure another year of coming close with no reward.

Glenn Vallach has been a New York Mets fan since foolishly abandoning the mighty Yankees in his youth after Mickey Mantle retired. Since the fond, fleeting memories of the Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee years, he sits quietly yearning for a fraction of the success enjoyed annually by the team that inhabits the borough in which I was born...waiting and hoping...waiting and hoping.

Sources:

  • · Yahoo! Sports New York Mets page
  • · Yahoo! Sports New York Yankees page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Baltimore Orioles page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Atlanta Braves page
  • · Yahoo! Sports St. Louis Cardinals page
  • · Paul Newberry, The Associated Press, Disputed call nearly causes riot at wild-card game
  • · Jay Busbee, Yahoo! Sports, Questionable call - in MLB's questionable new playoff format - helps end Braves season

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