In sports, there is nothing more exciting than an elimination game, and it’s why we, as fans, gravitate towards every single game 7, March Madness tournament, and Super Bowl. Fans expect teams to play their best with their backs against the wall – and most of the time they do.
While baseball purists might argue that the Wild Card round draws out an already long season, or that it goes against “the way things were done for years”; we would argue that the Wild Card round has already had a huge positive impact on the game. The 2014 World Series featured two teams that fought their way through the Wild Card round, with the San Francisco Giants eventually out-dueling the Kansas City Royals for the trophy. None of that would have been possible without the Wild Card round.
Furthermore, the Wild Card round gives hope to two franchises a season that otherwise would be lamenting the month of October. For a franchise like the Chicago Cubs – any chance to participate in playoff baseball can re-ignite hope for even the most jaded of fans.
The Wild Card round gives us the ultimate underdog stories – teams that would have been left out of the party 5 years ago, suddenly have a shot to do something special – and there’s one game to decide it all.
Does the system need work? Definitely. The fact that the divisional round starts four days after game 162 of the regular season is probably not the best formula for success. Many of these teams clinched their division or playoff spot by game 150, meaning they haven’t really played a meaningful game in nearly two weeks. Sure, you can’t help when a team clinches or control how their manager keeps them sharp, but something needs to be done about compressing the time between end of season and start of playoffs. But even with these drawbacks, there is no denying that Major League Baseball’s decision to expand the playoffs was the right move.