After finally approving the sale of the Astros to Jim Crane — part of the deal involving the Astros moving to the AL — baseball’s owners could move on to another important topic: the playoffs and competitive balance.
Baseball has struggled with the issue of competitive balance for years, and the recent surge by the Tampa Bay Rays has caused a big problem. With only one Wild Card spot per league, the Rays have been stuck in an unenviable situation; they must somehow outperform one of the Yankees or Red Sox on a yearly basis in order to make the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if they finish with more wins than the division leaders in both the AL Central and West; there are only two possible slots for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, giving the Rays the herculean task of slaying Goliath not once, not twice, but every single year.
In order to ameliorate the situation, Bud Selig announced today that baseball would be adding one more Wild Card team per league, hopefully as soon as in 2012. The two Wild Card teams for the league would then face each other in a one game playoff, and the winner would go on to the playoffs like normal. This gives division winners a clear advantage in the playoffs, but it also provides the Rays with an alternative route into the playoffs. The change should also add an extra dose of excitement to the end of the season, as more teams can potentially be in the race for the playoffs.