The One Game Wildcard, and Why I'm A Supporter
I've been listening to a lot of debate regarding the current one game wildcard game with most arguments centered around increasing the number of games. But after experiencing the atmosphere of a one game wildcard, I approve of the current system. It highlights parts of the game that I think too often get overlooked in the MLB. Let me explain just some of the reasons why.
Having a 'final showdown' in the first game of a playoff round highlights the skill of a smarter manager and a smarter organization. How so? Well I know we can all agree - when talking in terms of business - that the gap is huge between the small market and large market teams. A quick comparison between team salaries is all the evidence you need. In terms of economics, this means that small markets will always have less resources(aka money). What I'm saying is that with the way the wildcard is now, it forces both teams to start their best 9 guys right off the bat with no room for mistakes. And who makes less mistakes? The smarter team, not the team with more high-caliber players because they can afford to fill a roster with 20 good players rather than say, the 8-10 good players that a small market team can afford.
Last Night Brought Out the Innocence of Baseball and It was Glorious!
You might argue that one game eliminates the significance of a team's rotation, bullpen, or bench but at the end of the day baseball is about 9 ballplayers playing against 9 others at one time. Watching my Pirates play in this one game, I believed Hurdle put the best 9 guys we had on the field that night. While I know the wildcard may never be considered a true part of the postseason, last night was purely about the game in it's purest of forms, absent of the money. It's how I remember playing baseball as a kid in a small town. It was never more than 12-15 kids on a team and the game was never about who had more players. It was about who had the best ace and what team had the best 9 hitters and fielders. In that way, I was not only rooting for them, I wanted to be in that dugout or swinging the bat in the on-deck circle. Last night - while only 1 game out of the 4860 played so far this season - baseball returned to it's roots and the crowd responded in a big way.
I was a kid again and it was only about that game being played that night and who was going to win it. It was not about how money can buy you a series win. That's what sports are truly about - being part of a game in which every moment mattered and the outcome sends one team home for good.