Last night's American League Wild Card playoff between the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals was a game for the ages. The Kansas City Royals came back from being down 7-3 to win 9-8 in 12 innings in a tension-filled game to advance to the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels. And more than that, it illustrated the point of having these one game playoffs. Aside from providing plenty of excitement for neutral fans, it emphasizes winning the division even more. Whereas in the past, you could save your key guys if you clinched a berth with a few to go, but now you can't do that quite as much if your a wild card team because you now have to make sure you win this one-game playoff. Now, if you want to be able to take your foot off the gas a little, you have to make sure you win your division.
It also gives teams more to play for in September. With the addition of the 2nd wild card, teams that would normally be out of the running in September now have it all to play for down the stretch and gives some of the smaller clubs a chance to make it into the playoffs. The AL race came down to the last few games, with Seattle finishing a game behind Oakland for the 2nd spot according to MLB.com. Granted, the NL race wasn't as tight with Milwaukee finishing 6 games behind, but the 2nd wild card adds another dimension to the playoff race and opens the door for more teams to be competitive.
And the last reason this works? Excitement, as I mentioned above. If you're a neutral fan, these games provide great excitement lioke last night's game because teams will go all out to get in and the result is games like the one last night. For the fans of the teams involved, it's tense, but for the rest of us who don't have a rooting interest in the game, it's just fun to watch 2 teams go at it like KC and Oakland did last night, and it sums up what October baseball is and should be.
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