Purists keep kvetching about the wild card in major league baseball. The common argument is that the wild card makes pennant races meaningless. I’m sorry, but was I somehow hallucinating when I watched the Red Sox straining to get back into the wild card hunt? Was the race between the Dodgers and the Giants somehow less interesting because it was for the wild card, not for the pennant?
In fact, the wild card increases the opportunity for meaningful races in September, because it is not limited to teams within one division. If the Yankees and the Red Sox are sparring for the pennant, there’s no way the Twins can challenge either of them for that spot. If the Red Sox and the Blue Jays are going for the wild card, the A’s may well be involved — and to me that’s more exciting than watching the A’s sit around 10 games behind Seattle with nothing meaningful to do than play spoiler.
Sure, it didn’t work out that way this year; there were no meaningful wild card chases in the last weekend of the season, and there clearly would have been a meaningful pennant race without the wild card. Let’s not, however, extrapolate endlessly from one season’s example.