The Cardinals had the best record in baseball, but it seems like the game has something against them. I like the Wild Card as part of the game; it’s made the pennant races a little more exciting. It also allows more teams a chance at the post-season while keeping baseball from letting everyone in (like the other pro sports).
I have had issues with the format. Prior to the second wild card, I didn’t like the fact that they played a 2-2-1 series. The wild card team could win one of the first 2 games on the road and essentially go home with home field advantage. I always believed that the Wild Card team should have to really work to win a series, and a 2-1-2 format would help that.
My other issue is a factor for the Cardinals this year; who should the wild card play?
Prior to the expansion, the Wild Card team would play the best team not in their division. I wasn’t a fan of this since the best team should face the worst team, no matter the division. The first place team would play the third place team because the wild card came from their division.
Things have changed though. The wild card team now plays the best team in the league.
And that is the Cardinals issue this year.
Normally, the wild card teams have the worst record of the playoff teams. Since the 2 wild cards began in 2012, 8 of the 12 wild cards have been worse than the division winners (1 team was tied with the worse division winner and 3 were better than the worst divisional winner). The Cardinals, in facing the Cubs, were facing the 3rd best team in the league (heck, 3rd best in baseball).
Have we seen the second and third best teams face off in a wild card before? Have we seen the second best team left face the best one in the first round? Remember, it’s a small sample size since it’s only been during the 2 wild card phase.
Since 2012, there have been 16 wild card teams and 24 division winners. Of the 16 wild card teams, only the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates, 2015 Chicago Cubs, 2013 Pirates, 2012 Baltimore Orioles, and 2012 Texas Rangers have had better records than a division winner.
The 3 prior to this season were only better than 1 of the divisional winners that year. The 2015 NL wild card teams were both better than the New York Mets (the Cubs were 7 games better) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Cubs were 5 games better).
To answer the above questions, we have never seen the second and third best teams play for the wild card. Nor have we seen the second best team left face the best team in the first round of the playoffs. Yet the Cardinals are still facing the Cubs. It doesn’t seem right.
How about keeping the format basic? The best team plays the worst team. Yes, it could be a little hectic for travel; but team always double book travel trips when they don’t know where they are going. The Cardinals should be playing the Mets for the division series and the Cubs should be facing the Dodgers; I would give the Dodgers home field since they did win their division though.