Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Wild Card Era Sucks

An 83-win team is going to the World Series.

Let that one sink in a minute.

This is the 12th year since the eight-team playoff system was implemented and never has such a crappy team reached the World Series. The Yankees won only 87 regular season games on their way to a title in 2000 and last year's Houston Astros won just 89 games, but every other team that has played in the World Series in that time won at least 90 games.

There has been some concern about what the wild card does to baseball in the past, especially when wild card entries won it all in three straight years from 2002-2004. However, those teams won an average of 96 games, so they were legit. The bigger problem is the general dilution that occurs when you have three divisions and four playoff teams in each league.

Back before the wild card was created, the Cardinals would have finished 13 games behind the Mets in the old NL East and wouldn't have had a sniff of the postseason. Yet this team was able to lose nine of its final 12 games, finish with a .516 winning percentage, and then get a clean slate. They played a pitiful Padres offense in the NLDS and then barely got by a ravaged Mets team in seven games in the NLCS. Granted, the Cards had some big moments, got great efforts from Jeff Suppan, and should be proud of the way they battled. But am I the only person who thinks this rings just a little bit hollow? This is a team that was dead in the water a few weeks ago and now they are in the World Series. The craziest part is that they still aren't very good.

Obviously, the sad state of the National League is partly to blame for this. Even one complete team would have taken care of this problem. Even taking that into account though, this just feels cheap.

An 83-win team. In the World Series.

It's going to take some time to get used to that.

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