Major League Baseball may be on to something.
By adding a second wildcard to their playoff system this year, MLB has given teams the ability to provide maximum excitement for the fans come October.
Though this format does add a pair of additional games, a feature which may annoy fans who think that the playoffs already take too long, the truth is that the winner-take-all mentality could bring a football-like atmosphere to games.
On top of that, the fans may witness an appealing Cinderella team go all the way and win the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals pulled this off in 2011, winning the wild card on the last day of the regular season before going on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and finally the heavily favored Texas Rangers. Many fans without a rooting interest soon found one in the Cardinals, and if the addition of the second wildcard can produce more of these kinds of stories, then baseball may become more attractive to average sports fans.
However, MLB should be wary of decreasing the meaning of making the playoffs. Next year, there will be exactly 15 teams in each league; as of right now, five teams from each league will make the playoffs. Therefore, there is a one in three chance that a randomly selected team is a playoff team. While those odds aren’t great, MLB has to make sure that it stops here with the wildcard.
At the very least they need to make sure no more than five teams are in the playoffs if they do change the format in the future. Still, as long as MLB makes it tough for teams to make it to October, the new playoff format will bring much needed excitement to the game.