Week 40: Wild-card objections

I’m on a high today. The Cubs won the wild-card game last night.

Jake Arrieta pitched a gem, the defense stepped up and the baby Cubs hit a couple home runs to shut out the Pirates in Pittsburgh and move on to the NLDS. Chicago is a very happy place right now, and I am over the moon.

But I hate this one-game wild-card business.

I feel awful for the Pirates (though less awful after they tried to start a beanball brawl). They have hosted the wild-card game three years in a row and been eliminated from the playoffs — basically before they even start — three years in a row. The Pirates won 98 games this year, good for the second-best record in baseball, yet they got bounced from the postseason in one night. That just sucks.

I am definitely not saying this just because I am a Cubs fan and the Cubs, who finished with the third-best record in baseball, could’ve easily been the ones eliminated after only one game.

I’ve said this since 2012, when MLB began having two wild cards and one wild-card play-in game in each league.

I understand that having two wild-card teams play each other puts a premium on winning the division. That part of this plan works well. These days, winning the division is much more important than it was when the wild-card team automatically got a playoff series. That’s a good thing.

But in this format, teams play 162 games, and then it all comes down to one. They play an entire season, and then they can be finished in just one night. That’s soul-crushing for the team that loses. In the 2015 Pirates’ case, it meant 98 victories gone to waste because of just one loss — so harsh.

Not to mention, sudden death is not how baseball works. Baseball is a game of series. At no point in a baseball season do two teams play each other for just one game. Typically, they play three. Occasionally, it’s just two or as many as four. But in any case, baseball teams play each other in a series. This is not football, which is a sport of isolated games and single-elimination.

I say keep your two wild cards, but make it a three-game wild-card series. That would give teams some breathing room and a few shots to extend their seasons. Combined with the five-game LDS and seven-game LCS, it would make for a tiered postseason. Most importantly, it would fit the spirit and the letter of the game of baseball.

But for this year, of course, I can deal with the one game. The Cubs are on to the next one.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: Wifey by Judy Bloom

Song of the week: Ellie Goulding’s “On my mind”

Currently watching: Giving Blood & Oil and Life in Pieces a try

Plans for the weekend: Catching up with friends and relaxing after a super busy stretch. Also, I’m going to see Zac Brown Band on Friday!

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