The Rangers season is over. Now it’s time to see what good baseball looks like.
All four wildcard series start today. This is a new format, voted on to end the lockout. The players wanted to put an end to tanking and to teams not trying to be competitive. They also wanted to add incentives for teams to try to build the best rosters, theoretically by signing more experienced, thus more expensive, veteran players. So, the playoff format changed.
Instead of ten teams, with five from each league, making the playoffs, now it’s twelve teams, six each.
Gone is the five-team playoff format where two wildcard teams play a one-game do-or-die showdown, with the winner of that game playing the team with the best record in the league, and the other two division winners squaring off.
Now, they added one more playoff slot. Now, six teams in each league make the playoffs. All three division winners plus three wildcard teams. The division winner with the worst record (in the American League, that’s Cleveland) plays the wildcard team with the worst record (Tampa Bay) while the other two wildcard teams (Toronto and Seattle) play.
Instead of it being a one-game instant elimination, now it’s a best-of-three series, with all three games played at the home field of the team with the best record. Again, incentive to build the best team. Incentive to add that extra player to put you over the top.
Seattle, for instance, has not been in the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in major league sports in America. But they didn’t win enough games to get home field advantage so their fans will not get to see them play in Seattle unless they beat the Blue Jays two out of three in Toronto.
The two teams with the best records (Houston and New York) get to rest during that first round, and set their rotations.
The second round, the Division Series, is the more traditional best-of-five format, where the higher seeded team gets three home games and the lower seeded team two.
Then, it’s the League Championship best-of-seven series.
Then, the World Series.
Playoff baseball is back. This is the best time of the year.