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Thursday, April 18
The Indiana Daily Student

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Why the current Wild Card system is perfect for today's baseball

The baseball postseason is right around the corner and even after 162 games, sometimes the only game that matters is game No. 163.

On Nov. 17, 2011, MLB announced it would add another Wild Card team to the baseball postseason.

The top two teams in each league that did not win their respective divisions would face off in a one-game playoff game.

When the MLB decided to initiate this change, it was intended to make winning the division more important and keep more teams in contention deeper into the season.

And it’s worked.

This season, due to the situation involving the NL Central, there have been many speculations and concerns as to whether the baseball postseasons should once again be restructured, perhaps to a seeding format like other major sports.

Three teams in the NL Central — the Cardinals, the Pirates and the Cubs — have the league’s three best records.

With the way the playoffs are set up, two of the league’s three best teams will be out of the playoffs before the League Championship Series.

Does that seem unfair? Yes.

Is it bad for baseball fans? Yes.

But can you change it? No.

The call to reconstruct the playoff format once again misses the main reason why the format was changed in the first place, which was to increase the importance of winning the divisions by no longer allowing teams to let up late in the season.

In terms of the NL Central, the system has worked.

Last season, two Wild Card teams met in the World Series for just the second time in baseball history. The only other time was in 2002, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the San Francisco Giants in seven games.

The Giants, who would go on to win the 2014 World Series, easily handled the Pirates in their Wild Card matchup, winning by a final score of 8-0.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the game between the Royals and the Oakland A’s, was an instant classic.

That game sparked a dominant run for the Royals, the first team in history to win its first eight games in the postseason.

To think it might not have happened if the new playoff format was not intact.

Would a Wild Card team be champions? Would the A’s have been able to push the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series?

These are things we will never know.

Regardless, few things in sports are as nerve wrecking as one game, out of the 162 regular season games, determining the outcome of the entire season.

Eventually the players and owners will sit down and discuss the options of possibly adding more playoff berths but as for right now, the format is perfect.

The 2015 postseason begins Tuesday and is already bringing the excitement the new format was intended to do, as the Yankees take on the Astros and the Cubs and the Pirates face-off to see who plays their division-leading Cardinals.

The playoff format is doing what it was meant to do: adding outcomes that would have been impossible five years ago, in a sport where history has proven that the seemingly impossible can happen.

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