Of Wild – and farewell — Cards
Now that the CBA dust has settled — somewhat; the new Draft-spending dust-up is just beginning — I thought it might be intriguing to take a fresh look at another controversial aspect of the labor contract: The addition of one more Wild Card playoff team in each league, perhaps as soon as next October.
Did I say “fresh” look? I meant “historical” look. Doubling up on Wild Card teams will mean a one-game playoff between them to progress into the heart of the postseason — and the fact is, there have already been 10 play-in games in MLB history, the previous all needed to break ties at the conclusion of the regular season.
If the track record means anything, the new postseason guests will feel as welcomed as ants at a picnic. Their long-haul prospects are pretty dim. The thrill of gaining a postseason berth, of perhaps even winning that first rung, will fade into a quick boot from the playoffs.
In the Divisions Era — which obviously added extra obstacles to going all the way — only one of eight one-game playoff survivors has continued to a World Series title: The very first, the 1978 Bucky Dent Yankees, who after bouncing the Red Sox took the ALCS over Kansas City and the Series over the Dodgers.
Of the subsequent seven, only one even survived into the World Series: The 2007 Rockies, who remained unconscious (sweeps of the Phillies in the NLDS and of the D-backs in the NLCS) until being revived by Boston (swept in the Fall Classic).
Four others (2009 Twins, 2008 White Sox, 1998 Cubs and 1980 Astros) were summarily bounced in the first round (going a collective 4-12 in games), while the other two (1999 Mets and 1995 Mariners) at least stretched their lives into the League Championship Series.
Incidentally, the first two one-game playoff winners did cop World Series titles — but back in the day a pennant directly earned a get-in-the-Series card: The 1908 Cubs won a playoff over the Giants, then beat the Tigers for what still is their last Classic championship, and in 1948 the Indians won their tiebreaker over the Red Sox and beat the Braves for their last Series title.