After months of deliberation, MLB has announced it will expand the playoff format and add a Wild Card team to both the AL and the NL beginning this season. This means ten teams, five from each league, will make the post-season.
What will happen is that the two wild card teams from each league will face one another in a one game playoff with the winner facing that league’s top seed. As it stands now, the wild card winner faces the team with the best record in their league unless they happen to be in their division as was the case with the Tampa Bay Rays who faced the Texas Rangers instead of the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
In 1993, when MLB expanded from 26 to 28 teams and had not yet adopted the Wild Card system, a team had a one in seven chance of making the post-season. Today, with 30 teams and with these new changes, a team now has a one in three chance of making the post-season today. One could certainly argue that this dilutes the caliber of the product. On the other hand, it will make an already competitive system that much more competitive. Well, it will certainly make my 2012 MLB predictions that much more interesting.
It is worth noting that had this system been in place last season both the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox would have made the post-season despite their atrocious Septembers. Of course, if the Red Sox had made the playoffs last year then Terry Francona would still be managing, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek would still be playing and nobody would have ever heard a word about beer and chicken wings.