Thursday, November 17, 2011

Houston, Texas - Temporary Centre of the Baseball Universe

Jim Crane

This man, Jim Crane, is the new owner of the Houston Astros. This man's purchase of said Astros has thrown the baseball world into chaos. Interesting chaos, but chaos nonetheless. And how, baseball fan, does it affect you?

If you missed the news, the Astros will depart the NL Central for the AL West come 2013, which guarantees interleague play all season long. There will also be, possibly as early as 2012, a second Wild Card team in each league.

That is the fact that have fans all aTwitter. Although the extra Wild Card team would still need to win a one-game playoff against the other Wild Card to get to the Divisional Series, this still adds some extra intrigue as the season winds down.

I, as a Jays fan, find this development of particular interest. After all, like any good Jays fan, I'm of the opinion that if the Jays were in any division other than the American League East, or if there was a second Wild Card team, they would have made the playoffs virtually every year.

But, would it help the Jays? If, when the Wild Card was established in 1995, there were immediately two Wild Card entries, the following teams would have made it in:

1995 Los Angeles Angels Houston Astros
1996 Seattle Mariners Montreal Expos
1997 Los Angeles Angels Los Angeles Dodgers
1998 Toronto Blue Jays San Francisco Giants
1999 Oakland Athletics Cincinnati Reds
2000 Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Dodgers
2001 Minnesota Twins San Francisco Giants
2002 Seattle Mariners/Boston Red Sox Los Angeles Dodgers
2003 Seattle Mariners Houston Astros
2004 Oakland Athletics San Francisco Giants
2005 Cleveland Indians Philadelphia Phillies
2006 Chicago White Sox Philadelphia Phillies
2007 Detroit Tigers San Diego Padres
2008 New York Yankees New York Mets
2009 Texas Rangers San Francisco Giants
2010 Boston Red Sox San Diego Padres
2011 Boston Red Sox Atlanta Braves

Yeeeeeah, it wouldn't actually have helped the Jays a whole heck of a lot to have had a second Wild Card all these years - save for the potential to be murdered by the Yankees in 1998. That being said, the opportunity to play in the AL West could have made life a little easier - or, for that matter, the NL West. Still though, at least the Jays made it, which is more than can be said for Kansas City or Pittsburgh.

However, it does still provide a good deal of excitement to the season. As with every change in baseball, all of the worst case scenarios are being imagined, and various "Let's let everyone into the playoffs!" reductio ad absurdum arguments are being bandied about. The one-game playoff format puts a premium on winning one's division - win your division, and guarantee yourself a playoff series.

It will also avoid situations wherein a late-season series between a division leaders and the wild card leader essentially looks like a Triple-A game as two teams that know they're going to the playoffs rest their regulars.

There is plenty of time to really dig deep into the ins and outs of these decisions, but for now, suffice to say that the extra Wild Card team will do much more good than harm1, but the divisional realignment just seems silly.

But, as with all things baseball, only time will tell.

1 - Just not necessarily for the Jays

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