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September 1, 2000
The Daily Prospectus
The Wild, Wild Card
Many of you have seen the work of Jeff Hildebrand here at the Web site and in Baseball Prospectus 2000. Last night, he sent out this missive:
OK, so the majors aren't the only ones who can do some screwy things about playoffs. I just found out something really weird about the International League playoff situation. The standings are currently:
Thanks, Jeff. As I've mentioned, I have no real use for the wild card because of how it distorts the race for division titles, and here is another example of how it complicates an otherwise fantastic race.
We could see another bastardization of the process this season; it's entirely possible that the AL West could finish in a tie, with the leaders of the divisions having the same record as, say, the Red Sox or Indians.
Hmmm...this may be easier to do with an example. Say we all wake up on October 2 to this:
In this scenario, the Red Sox, Mariners and A's are in a three-way tie for two spots, with the A's and Ms tied for a division title.
But the Red Sox would automatically get the wild card, the winner of a one-game Athletics/Mariners playoff would be the AL West winner and the loser would be very, very drunk that night. Why? Well, on Mr. Selig's Wild Ride, the extra loss by the AL West team gives that team a worse record than the team that didn't have to play an extra game, so they lose.
I suppose it's better than "runs scored in division games" or something equally NFL, and it's OK...NO, IT'S NOT! It's stupid and lazy and a thousand other things I'm usually hearing other people call me. Penalizing a team for playing for a division title, and giving a non-division-winner a free pass instead, is appalling.
This isn't some longshot, either. It nearly happened in 1995 in the AL and in the NL last year, and with half the American League separated by about seven games, it could easily happen this year.
Now, forget all that, because when we come back on Tuesday, we'll be discussing the AL's six-team scramble for the, uh, wild card. Have a great holiday weekend, everyone.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com.