I have been one of the biggest supporters of Major League Baseball’s second wild card spot. It presents some obvious advantages for the game in general as well as many teams that are in and out of contention due to financial constraints or poor management. It keeps fans involved on a much larger scale. While many fan bases would have given up in July or August (or even earlier), there is renewed hope that their teams may squeak into the wild-card playoff game (for the right to play in the ALDS). The St. Louis Cardinals used this to perfection last season as they defeated the seemingly superior Atlanta Braves and advanced through the National League Championship Series.
The wild card game also puts a renewed emphasis on winning your respective divisions. Over the past ten years, wild card teams have had a great degree of success, at the expense of the traditional division winners. This unsettled many of the traditionalists in Major League Baseball. What this wild card game would do, they argued, is to create intense division races and place a new emphasis on division championships. The reward for these teams who won their divisions would be avoiding the unpredictable wild card one game playoff.
While the second wild card has enflamed the emotions of many on both sides of the debate, nobody can ignore the changes that this move has had and will have on the game. While it will certainly create fierce competition, it will also take away certain mainstays that baseball fans have grown to love. The trade deadline is one of these mainstays. Every July 31st, we normally see a flurry of trades with multiple big names on the move from struggling teams to contenders. This day that many baseball fans looked forward to has now been watered down as these teams that used to be sellers may stand pat with their players in an attempt to make a late season run at the second wild card spot. Teams such as the Nationals and Royals may not trade their players for other teams’ prospects as they may have in the past. They are 7 and 5.5 games out of the second wild card spot, respectively.
With the trade deadline at 4:00 EDT today, I would argue that things will be relatively quiet compared to years past. Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox may move but even that is not a done deal. Rios’ teammate Jake Peavy looks to be heading to Boston in a trade. Outside of that, we have not seen the usual volume of rumors that we have become accustomed to. This will be a sign of things to come and I’d argue that it is a small price to pay for increased competition and more excitement in baseball.