Winning As the Wild Card


Since the wild-card’s inception in 1995, I have finally become accustomed to it. Now there might be a possibility of an addition of a second wild-card to be inaugurated as early as this upcoming season. Commissioner Bud Selig is pretty determined for it to happen. The added wild-card slots would increase the teams included in the postseason from 8 to 10, and it would entail a one-game wild-card playoff.

"“It’s pretty definite in my mind,” Selig told USA TODAY. “Teams are anxious. Clubs really want it.”"

The Major League Players Association has doubts to whether it can be worked into the 2012 schedule, and they plan to make their decision by March 1st.

The question which the added wild-card raises for Dodger fans is: Will this benefit the chances of the Dodgers making it into the playoffs? We watched the exciting climax of the St. Louis Cardinals’ season when they clinched the wild card on the final game of 2011. They carried this momentum all the way to their World Series berth and win.

In my opinion, adding this one-game wild-card playoff game will actually reinforce the importance of winning one’s division. With the current format, I often felt as though a team could get “lucky” and knock off a more worthy ball club before their deserved time was up. A wild-card race could be distracting to a traditional pennant race as well. Now the expanded wild-card round will make it more challenging for the wild-card winning team. It wouldn’t diminish the importance of a strong regular season and Division first place rank. A do or die one-game playoff game would be pretty exciting too, wouldn’t it?

With the National League West’s defending champions, the Arizona Diamondbacks looking to return to the top of the heap, the Dodgers would benefit from the additional playoff slot available. We of course would much rather win the Division, but winning the wild-card and going on to the World Series is just as sweet of a journey. In fact, the path to the Fall Classic would be an even more thrilling rollercoaster ride if one beats the odds so to speak.

Five teams including the 1997 Florida Marlins, the 2002 Anaheim Angels, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, and the reigning 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals were all wild-card winners. There has also been another five wild-card teams which reached the World Series but lost.

The Dodgers have clinched the wild-card twice. In 1996 they won the WC with a record of 90-72, but lost to the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. In 2006 the Dodgers won the WC with a record of 88-74 but once again lost the Division Series to the New York Mets.

Clinching the wild-card versus our foes the Giants at AT&T Park on October 1, 2006 was certainly memorable. The Dodgers, led by then manager Grady Little, won 4-3 thanks partly to a James Loney homerun in the second inning off of Jason Schmidt. Rookie Eric Stults started the game to allow Derek Lowe to rest for the Division Series, and Chad Billingsley pitched in relief followed by Joe Beimel who picked up the save. Ramon Martinez hit a tying, two-run double in the sixth inning for the Dodgers. Jason Repko stole a base and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh on Julio Lugo‘s single. That would also be the last time we would see Barry Bonds.

I’m a traditionalist at heart, and I certainly loathe Interleague play, the designated hitter, and radical division realignment. Yet I must accept the fact that Selig’s expanded playoff schedule is coming. If not this season, then for sure by 2013. Griping will not make it go away, so I say let’s embrace it as it comes and turn it into an increased opportunity for the Dodgers to seize a playoff spot.