Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two wild card teams in the World Series

We are a game away from the 2014 World Series being populated by wild card teams. I don't believe this is something that is bad or wrong. I do not write about this because the two teams did not earn or deserve to get as far as they have gotten. There is just an uneasiness about two teams that did not win their respective divisions after 162 games battling for the title.
It's not like it happens often. I don't recall another World Series like it. I do remember the Cardinals winning the World Series as a wild card team in 2011. I do know of some Cardinal fans that were slightly embarrassed about the fact. It doesn't really bother me greatly, but again, there is some uneasiness about those six teams that won divisions sitting at home watching the Series along with the rest of us.
I think part of my problem is the current way in which wild card teams are handled as far as home field advantage goes. In the division series, the wild card faces a 2-2-1 scenario with the middle two games as the only home games. Then in the LCS, the series is handled in a 2-3-2 scenario. My problem is the middle two games.
I believe that the wild card team should have at least one home game in the division series and at least two in the LCS. A team's fans deserve to get to cheer for their team in the post season. I would never advocate taking away home games for wild card teams. But again, there is a problem.
The first problem is if the wild card team wins at least one of the two first two away games in either series. Since most teams have at least one "ace" pitcher, the odds of that happening are pretty strong. And if the wild card team can win one of those first two games, then the series (either one) moves to the wild card city where a series can be put away entirely while in the wild card team's city.
Let's take the current Giants - Cardinals series in the NLCS. The Giants have an ace in Madison Bumgarner. So the team's odds of winning one of the two games in St. Louis is pretty strong. I get that the team still has to win a game and the Cardinals have good pitching least in theory.
So the Giants win one of the two games in St. Louis and then play the next three in San Francisco. Once past the ace, a game can be aided by the home town crowd, a team's comfort level at home, etc. So the Cardinals have a three-game slog through extra adversity just to try to survive to get back to where they would have the advantage at home. I'm not sure that is weighted correctly for a division winner and a team that did not win a division.
If the series goes to the max (five games or seven), then the division winner has the advantage. But how often does that happen? So how would you go about fixing this situation?
One way is to have the opening two games in the wild card team's home stadium. Then the series is finished entirely at the home of the division winner. This reverses the current situation for the better.
Before I support other options, I need to interject a fundamental thought. It is my belief that the wild card team's options should be more difficult than a team that won a division. Basically, what happens now is that once a wild card team gets past the wild card game, the current set up actually favors them and that is not fundamentally correct.
Another option is to cut down the home games for the wild card to one in the division series and two in the LCS. I don't like this as much because fans of any post season team deserve the chance to root for their teams and quite frankly, any post season team deserves to gain the extra revenue from home games.
In the last stated option, the division series would go 2-1-2 and the LCS would go to 2-2-3. Frankly, once a team gets to the World Series, they have earned the right to be there and all bets are off and neither team deserves any breaks.
One last option is the most drastic. It would include adding one more wild card team in each league for a total of three and then you drop the wild card game and have three concurrent division series with the three division winners all facing a wild card team in the first option format.
My conclusion and my contention is that the current format actually favors the wild card team, especially if it can win one of the first two games of either series. And carrying a system that favors a wild card team over a division winner just doesn't seem right from where I sit.

1 comment:

forged said...

Some random thoughts on this:

1) A team is only allowed to claim the wildcard spot if their record was good enough to win a different division but not the one they are in. If the eliminates all of the wildcard teams in a league, take the one with the best record and don't have a play-in game.

2) Instead of using LDS to determine who goes to the LCS, us a pool round-robin play and the top two teams go onto the LCS with seeding being based on regular season results for both the pool play AND the LCS.

Unfortunately, apart from changing the best of 7 to 2-2-1-1-1 and the best of 5 to 1-2-1-1 (with the higher seeded team getting the 2 home games in a row) and not have off days for travel days, I don't think you really get out of the problems the current format has.