It's a great season to be a baseball fan. With the introduction of the second wild card this offseason, we have some extremely tight races midway through July, with more teams than expected within spitting distance of the playoffs. Check it out.
I mean, look at those races. Eight teams in the AL in the race for a wild card, while only four are close in the NL. But at any rate, we're going to have an exciting race going down the stretch. But if the races remain this close, we could have an interesting scenario. Namely, what happens if there's a tie for the second spot?
Well, here's the situation. It's just like we're used to, but with an additional kick thanks to the second wild card. If two teams are tied for the second wild card slot, we do the game 163 thing, like we've done in years before. Whoever has the best head to head record hosts the game, and that game takes place the day after the season ends. The very next day, the winner of *that* game has to travel to the winner of the first wild card for the one game wild card playoff. Then the winner of THAT game gets to host the top seed the very next day in the beginning of the division series. So if a team ties for the second wild card slot, they could end up playing four games in four cities in four days. Lunacy.
Now, what if there are more than two teams tied for the second wild card? Well…MLB is going to have a problem here. Normally, ties like this are broken by an A, B, C two game playoff, where the teams are given designations based on their records against one another. Team A hosts Team B the day after the season ends, and the winner of that game then travels to play Team C the next day. Buuuuut, the next day is scheduled to be the Wild Card playoff game….and this is where chaos will begin to ensue. There really isn't anything that MLB can do, is there?
If baseball wants to doi a doubleheader between the three tied teams, you run into a possible situation of Team A hosting Team B, and then losing…resulting in Team B and Team C playing in Team A's park, where the fans would have no rooting interest whatsoever. There is nothing that the league can do if this happens aside from pushing the wild card playoff back a day, which as a result would push back the start of that division series a day.
Confused yet? OK, let's use real world teams in this scenario. In the above standings, you see that the Orioles and A's are tied for the final wild card spot right now. The Orioles lead their season series 2-1, but there are still six games left. Assuming Baltimore wins the season series and the tie stands, the Orioles would finish off their year in Tampa Bay on October 3rd, would travel to Baltimore to play the A's on the 4th, and if they win that game, they'd go to Los Angeles to play the Angels on the 5th. And hell, if they won THAT game, they'd have to go BACK to Baltimore on the 6th to start the division series (thanks to the new wild card rules). So to summarize, that's a flight up the east coast and TWO cross country flights in a three day span. By the same token for the A's, they finish their year at home against the Rangers on the 3rd. So in the above scenario, they'd fly to Baltimore for the playoff on the 4th, then fly to Los Angeles for the wild card playoff against the Angels on the 5th, then fly back to Oakland for the wild card playoff on the 6th. Does your head hurt yet?
Just for the hell of it, let's assume the White Sox also finish the season tied with Baltimore and Oakland to cause a three-way tie for the final wild card slot. Well, in that case, we could end up with a situation where the A's host the White Sox in a one-game playoff on the 4th, fly out to Baltimore to play them in ANOTHER one game playoff on the 5th, and then, the winner of that game flies out to play the Angels in the wild card playoff on the 6th. Does your head hurt yet?
Of course, if there's a four team tie, we're going to have a little single elimination, three game tournament between the four teams. Ahhh….so fun.
So while the race for the two wild card slots in each league are exciting right now, MLB could have an absolute disaster on their hands at the end of the year.