I love everything about the expanded playoff format that the MLB implemented last year. An extra wildcard spot in each league means October begins in the most exciting way possible, with a play-in game.
The nature of a single-elimination baseball game, and the desire to stay out of it, increases the value of a division crown. And two more quality baseball teams get a chance to play their way through the playoffs.
The idea to expand the playoff field certainly had to do with the added revenue from the two play-in games before the Divisional Series's, but awarding ten playoff spots theoretically means that September becomes more exciting as a whole. It certainly becomes relevant for more fan bases with a full ten spots available. But an added dimension with different levels of playoff achievements to clinch should also spice up the races. There's also exactly one situation where the new format waters down the race so much that it subtracts from the intensity of the season's final stretch.
And it's happening in 2014.
This year's playoff race is just about the absolute worst case "suspense" scenario that could happen under the new format. The Royals and Pirates are still kicking in second place in AL/NL Central, but every division across baseball appears to be on lockdown (and have been for a couple of weeks now).
What we're left with is those Royals and Pirates fighting with the A's and Giants in the wildcards, respectively.
If there was just one wildcard champion, we'd be in store for a fun final weekend of the regular season with only two of those four earning postseason berths. But both pairs of wildcard contenders have separated themselves from the rest of the field, which means the only thing America has to watch for will be how many play-in games the Bay Area hosts.
Not all bad
It hasn't been all bad as far as a full September goes. The expanded format kept more Seattle Mariner fans watching out-of-town scoreboards a lot longer than they've been used to. It also made Milwaukee's free-fall all that more depressing (maybe it has been all bad).
But as far as the last weekend series of teams' schedules go, the new playoff format has just about sucked all of the life out of this year's playoff chase. The good news for Major League Baseball is that this worst case scenario hasn't seemed to bother anyone.
And that may just be a bigger win than any.
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