The experiment of the 5th playoffs team, the 2nd Wild Card, is officially two seasons in. There are a lot of positive results from adding a 5th playoff team to MLB. More teams, read: markets, are in contention to make the playoffs each year. Adding one more team may not seem like a huge deal. The race for the wild card spot is usually pretty tight, so adding one more playoff spot should be just like adding one more chair at a table that has the room anyway. However, the ramifications of the 5th playoff spot have changed the league.
There are generally two schools of thought: there should not be a 5th team, or the wild card round should be more than one game. While there are merits to both arguments, I tend to think more about the length of the Wild Card round rather than the number of teams. Major League Baseball just added the 5th team two years ago. The league will not be eliminating it any time soon.
The baseball season is incredibly long. Teams play 162 games in 180 days (18 days off, see how that works?) In addition, teams can play up to 20 post season games. Baseball is not played indoors like basketball. It is not a game about playing through the elements like football. Baseball is a game that needs relatively warm weather, no snow, and very little rain. Generally starting in late March and ending in very late October, baseball does not always get cooperative weather. So adding another half week for a series is rather difficult to do. However, there is some space on the schedule to take just one day and add it to the post season to make for a fantastic addition that would satisfy baseball minds.
The All-Star break is way too long. There is a Home Run Derby and an All-Star game. Taking place on the Monday and Tuesday of a week in July, baseball teams do not start playing again until that Friday. For a sport that plays nearly every day, waiting until Friday is ridiculous. Taking one day off, Wednesday, and resuming baseball on Thursday is more than enough time to get everyone fair rest and time to travel. Suddenly, there is an extra day that can be used in October.
Having a one game Wild Card round is almost as ridiculous as the All Star game determining home field advantage. It needs to be three games. One major aspect of the Wild Card round is giving an advantage to the team that actually wins its division. So here is what Major League Baseball should do. Open the Wild Card round to a three game series, to be played over two days. Game one will be at the lower seed’s home field. Games 2 and 3 will be played at the home field of the higher seeded team, as a doubleheader, if needed. In this way, Major League Baseball is not determining a playoff winner by one game after 6 months of playing nearly daily. A three-game series provides for increased revenue, increased attention to the series, and eliminates the loud grumbling of players and managers who hate the current format.
Of course there are negatives to every playoff format argument. However, assuming that the 5th team is here to stay, this should be the way to go. Baseball will not be adding length to the calendar to get games 2 and 3 of the series in, which is its main concern. The majority of the MLB not playing from Sunday night until the following Friday is just asinine and needs to be fixed. I understand that MLB loves the idea of the sudden death Wild Card game, but imagine a team being down in a series 1-0 and needing to win twice in a day to just get to the divisional series. It will make for fascinating baseball. This is my proposal, I hope you are reading, Bud Selig.