How a bit of news like this slipped through the attention of the nation is beyond me. Maybe it was because of the overwhelming Penn State scandal news or the overbearing nothing news of the NBA lockout, but the whole landscape of Major League Baseball changed last week, and nobody knows about it.
You didn’t hear about it? That’s OK; neither did anyone else, including hardcore sports fans. How’d they do it? I’ll let you guess before I tell you. Did they (A) add instant replay, (B) institute the DH in both leagues, (C) add a wildcard team, or (D) demolish the Yankees?
No, sorry, it wasn’t D. Sorry to get your hopes up. It wasn’t A. Apparently, we’re going to have to have an Armando Galarraga moment in the World Series that costs an entire franchise a world title before we’ll put instant replay in baseball and bring the game into the 21st century.
It wasn’t B either. Having both leagues play by the same rules would make too much sense.
You guessed it; it was C. When Jim Crane bought the Houston Astros last week, it became the domino that moved the Astros from the National League to the American League. That domino knocked another one over. That meant interleague play will be happening virtually every day during the baseball season.
The whole event also triggered a move that Bud Selig has been waiting to make ever since he realized that people liked the addition of the first wildcard. Baseball added a second wildcard to each league and decided to have the two wildcards in each league play each other in a one-game playoff at the end of the year.
Just like that, the most irrelevant team in all of baseball changed the whole game, and no one in sports knew about it. It was reported for the first 15 minutes of one SportsCenter, but it was hardly ever mentioned again.
While it’s true that all it really does is guarantee that the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees will make the playoffs every year, it also makes it doubly important to win your division. But that’s not why Selig did it.
Coming off the most entertaining September and October baseball has seen in a long time, Selig decided he needed to change it. Now, 162 games can be made meaningless with one loss at the end of the season. As frustrating as it was for Red Sox fans to have their long, six-month season come to an end on one night, in three minutes, it will now be even more frustrating for two fanbases every year who will have worked hard all year to win the wildcard only to be joined by a team who doesn’t deserve to be there in a one-game playoff.
In this system, the Cardinals may have never made the World Series. All the magic, all the drama, all the history-making could have never happened had the Cardinals possibly had to meet the Braves in a one-game playoff. Maybe the Cards still would have won, but it would have been a shame to lose a world championship in a one-game playoff on a bad bounce or a bad break.
How many world champions are we going to lose to this one-game playoff because we had to entertain the masses and interest one extra fanbase a year, even though that fanbase will probably be one of the same two or three every season?
Many are saying, “Well, at least baseball is making changes.” I’m glad the game is finally beginning to evolve, but it is not doing so innovatively. The NFL is innovative, making changes before they are popular or widely accepted. Major League Baseball is gutless, only making changes when it has been needed for years.
This new change will certainly be entertaining, but Major League Baseball just got further away from determining a true champion than the BCS is.
Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM and a popular contributor for Deseret News and KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TrevorAmicone.