MLB Column: Should there be a Wild Card game?

Minnesota Twins players watch during the closing innings of their 8-4 loss in an American League wild-card playoff baseball game against the New York Yankees in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Minnesota Twins players watch during the closing innings of their 8-4 loss in an American League wild-card playoff baseball game against the New York Yankees in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The short answer: Yes. Did you even watch the AL Wild Card game? This was over four hours of exciting, passionate, back-and-forth play between two teams fighting for a spot in the postseason. The one-game format is incredible. There’s almost nothing in the postseason that puts as much pressure on a team (except maybe a game seven).

I know there are a lot of people who think the format is terrible. So, as a disclaimer, I want to let everyone know that I’m a Mets fan. Last year, I watched Madison Bumgartner dominate in a complete game effort to eliminate us from postseason play. I still love the Wild Card.

First of all, I don’t think anyone can argue it makes late-September play a lot more exciting. The Twins and Angels were in close competition fighting for that one opportunity to continue their season. If they succeed? They’re fighting for one more opportunity to continue. This is a no-holds-barred fight to the death between several teams and there can be no doubt that it is exciting to watch.

From an economic standpoint, the MLB makes a lot of money on those broadcast rights. The Yankees make a lot of money from hosting what could be their most exciting playoff game in years. Everyone makes more money from this format, so everyone’s happy.

In that case, you might be asking why the Wild Card isn’t a three-game series. Hypothetically that would be three times as profitable. Except it won’t be. Far fewer people would watch. Far fewer people would show up. It’s like game one of the World Series, nothing too serious is at stake. Nothing too exciting will happen. In this case, the busy baseball fan will ignore the first few games and only watch once the stakes are high. In a one-game playoff, the stakes are high no matter what. Even casual baseball fans show up for this one-time, completely profitable game.

Often, fans of teams who lose this one game argue that it doesn’t give their team a fair chance. What happens when Madison Bumgartner is at his absolute best? The fact is that the winning team faces some serious disadvantages when moving forward. Bumgartner pitched a lot. He can’t show up for the NLDS for at least two games, if not more. Not only that, but the entire team doesn’t get the same rest that their opponent will get. If those two things aren’t enough of a disadvantage, this team immediately has to face the best team in the league.

In other words, the Wild Card team is at a severe disadvantage. If this team makes it to a World Series, they truly deserve to win. That team overcame terrible odds and upset talented opponents to earn their spot in history. That, my friends, is exciting.

I do want to mention one thing some people might have complaints about. There was more than just one loser in last night’s game: Robert Manfred’s pace-of-play initiatives took a hit. The first inning of the AL Wild Card took 45 minutes. This was the first winner-take-all postseason game in which neither starter made it through two innings. It was also an incredible game. So, maybe, just maybe, baseball fans don’t need to see a pitch clock.

After a game like that, everyone take a step back, take a deep breath and rejoice in the fact that baseball is really, really good.


Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.schaefer@uconn.edu.