The Milwaukee Brewers suffered an excruciating loss Tuesday night to the Washington Nationals in the Wild Card game. Should it be just one game?
In Major League Baseball, you play a 162 game regular season, the most of any pro sports league in the country. Yet, here in the playoffs, it all comes down to simply one game to determine whether or not you advance, and the Milwaukee Brewers ended up with the short end of the stick in that game.
This question has been brewing for a few years now: Should the Wild Card round be expanded to a three game series?
Should Wild Card Be Expanded?
With all the variables in the game of baseball and the chance nature of winning a game, expanding to a best-of-three series makes sense. That kind of series is more likely to determine which team is better than the other and who is best suited to move on to the LDS.
Freak plays like the one to Trent Grisham, although they would still hurt, wouldn’t effectively end a team’s season. There would be other opportunities to make things right and get back on track.
In the College World Series, they play a best-of-three to determine their champion, because having it all rest on one game would be unfair to the players.
Yes, even in your best-of-five and best-of-seven series, there’s going to be winner-take-all games with a lot of pressure, and players have to execute. But at least there were other games in that series where the team had opportunities to win and move on. In the Wild Card, there’s none of that.
From a competitive standpoint, it makes perfect sense to expand the Wild Card round.
The Problems With Expansion
However, from a logistical standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to expand the Wild Card. The division winners in the American League are already getting four days off prior to their first series, while the NL has three days off. That allows them to set their rotation and have everyone rested up.
But if the Wild Card round goes all three games, they’re being pushed back a few more days. Counting in a likely travel day for a three game series and next thing you know, the division winners are sitting out a whole week with nothing to do. That’s a long time in the baseball world, and it’s tough for them to stay on their game.
With more off-days added to the schedule and no sign of MLB shortening the regular season, the World Series has been pushed later and later into October and has even snuck into November a couple of times. MLB wants to avoid November as much as they can help it.
Having the best teams sit an extra few days just because the “lesser” teams want a better competitive series doesn’t make too much sense in that respect. In theory, these teams are underdogs and should be losing in the next round to the top seed in the league. While that doesn’t always happen, and baseball can be weird sometimes, it takes away that competitive edge for winning the division.
The whole reason MLB implemented the Wild Card game was to better reward the division winners with more of an edge.
Will The Wild Card Ever Be Expanded?
It doesn’t look like it. MLB loves the winner-take-all nature of the Wild Card game, and so do the fans. Twitter nearly went down during the game and there was so much excitement and coverage of this game.
With all the logistical nightmares of a three game series, the travel, the extra days off for division winners, and further extending the playoff calendar, it doesn’t make much sense to expand the Wild Card if you’re MLB.
While it stinks the Milwaukee Brewers lost and it’s a heartbreaking way to go, that’s baseball sometimes. You can’t predict it, you can’t control it, you can only enjoy the ride. If you hate the one-game Wild Card playoff that much, win the division next time.
Next year, this Milwaukee Brewers team is going to have their eyes set on the division, knowing full well how much they want to avoid another ending like this one.