Earlier today, Major League Baseball announced that it would restructure its playoff format from involving three division winners and a wild card team to three division winners and two wild card teams that play one game to determine who wins the super-duper crazy wild card and gain entrance into a division series against the strongest of the division winners that’s from a division other than the super-duper crazy wild card winner’s. The news is so exciting, it’s enough to write a run-on sentence about.
But what does such news actually mean to teams on the cusp of competing this coming season? Should they amp up their efforts to acquire players in response to the restructuring? Or, hold course?
As usual, DJF’s Andrew Stoeten does an excellent job of listing the pros and cons of MLB’s new playoff policy, stating that while it’s technically become easier for his beloved Blue Jays to make the playoffs, it’s be will be harder to advance as anything other than the division winner.
It’s great that an extra team will get a chance to join the party– and that may ultimately benefit the Jays sooner, and more often than Alex’s team-building will– but being a Wild Card team also just got quite a bit lot less valuable, thanks to the play-in game.
Exactly. The play-in game is key. I find it hard to fathom any general manager, even one built from spare pig parts jerry-rigged together with the assembled organs of Ned Colletti, Jim Hendry and Ed Wade, would do anything differently in an off season based on the possibility of participating in a one game playoff that would use up your best starter ahead of facing the best team in your league in an extended series for which their roster is well rested. And that’s a best case scenario that assumes you win.
We’ve seen several examples of a team with less talent beating superior opposition in a seven game series. We’ve seen even more examples of it happening in a five game series. There’s just so much randomness and luck involved in the game of baseball that the better team doesn’t necessarily have the ability to exercise their superiority in a single game. That’s why 162 games are necessary in the lead up to the playoffs.
Gambling on short term success from trades or contracts to reach a single game is the baseball equivalent of buying scratch lottery tickets with the hope of winning money that can let you afford a trip to the casino. The goal for every team, whether they play in the American League East or the National League West should remain to be building an organization that finds sustainable success.