History of the MLB Wild Card

Allen Catour, Writer

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The MLB playoffs officially started last week on Tuesday, October 1. The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 in the National League Wild Card Game. On Wednesday the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game. What is the wild card game? I’d like to take a deeper look and explain how it came to be.

Prior to 1995, there were only four divisions in MLB, two in the American League and two in the National League.  Teams started to expand which made making the playoffs difficult. A new system was created where the divisions increased from two to three in each league. The winner of each division automatically qualified them for the Division Series. The decision was made to add a wild-card fourth seed into the playoffs. The wild-card team would have the most wins over teams that didn’t win the division. They would play the team who had the most wins in their league in the first round expect if the team with the most wins were in the same division. In that case they’d play the team with the second most wins.

MLB announced that they were adding two wild-card teams in each league on November 17, 2011. The two teams with the most wins, except the division winners, play in a one-game playoff and the winner advances to the Division Series where they’ll face the top seed. This new playoff format has been used from 2012-present. The concept behind this move was to allow more teams the opportunity to make the playoffs. Usually the four wild-card teams are teams that aren’t usually the best in the league and it gives baseball fans the opportunity to see a variety of teams and players.

The 2014 season is a great example of the benefits from the addition of the wild-card games. The games that year were the Oakland Athletics vs Kansas City Royals in the AL and San Francisco Giants vs Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL. The Royals and Giants won to advance to the next round. The Royals went on to sweep the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series and the Baltimore Orioles in the Championship Series to reach the World Series. The Giants beat the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals on their way to a shot at the title. The two wild-card winners faced off in the World Series and ended up going to a deciding game seven. The Giants won 3-2 in a very close, tense game. The 2014 postseason shows us that the wild-card games are beneficial to the league and can pay off for teams that play in them.

Source: https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Wild_Card


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