Like It or Not, Baseball’s Instant-Knockout Game Seems Here to Stay

Even worse, the wild-card winner advanced directly to the division series with no penalty other than getting to host just two of the five potential games. In 2010, the Yankees essentially conceded the American League East crown to the Tampa Bay Rays, grabbing the wild-card spot and resting up for a first-round series they would win. Major League Baseball took notice, and soon took action.

“We wanted to make sure everybody played for the division title; remember we had those couple of years where it didn’t matter?” Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday. “So we wanted to make sure everybody played hard all the way through the division. We wanted to disadvantage the wild card, so we decided: make them do a play-in game.”

Yes, this runs counter to the natural rhythms of a sport played in slices of mostly three-game series over a punishing six-month grind. When the very best teams lose at least 55 or 60 games per season, one game proves very little.

The retort, of course? Win the division, and you’ll have a playoff series. Wild-card teams should simply be happy with the invitation. Just ask Paul Molitor, the Twins’ manager, whose Milwaukee Brewers won 93 games in 1978 — more than A.L. West champion Kansas City, but not enough

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