Under new wild card system, Orioles are right where they’d be with the old one

Adam Jones

Adam Jones (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Before Major League Baseball expanded its playoff format this year and added a second wild card team in each league, the sole wild card winners in both the American and National Leagues would open the playoffs against the team with the best record in their league. Under the old system, if two teams finished tied for their league’s wild card spot, they would face each other in a one game playoff.

In the American League this year, the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers both finished the regular season with 93-69 records, capturing the two American League wild card spots. If this had occurred a year ago under the old one-wild-card system, the two teams would have done exactly what they did last night under the new system: played a single game with the winner advancing to face the New York Yankees in the ALDS.

In the future, I hope to see MLB expand the wild card game to a three game series; one game just doesn’t seem like enough. But, in the meantime, let’s not pretend the Orioles are moving on because of some flawed new system.

Tweets like the one above from Peter King of Sports Illustrated—or the one below it that he retweeted—bother me a little bit. King and Hartles don’t flat out say the Orioles haven’t done enough to be where they are, but they don’t exactly make it sound like the Orioles truly deserve to be advancing after defeating Texas just once.

When discussing the 94-68 Atlanta Braves, who lost the NL Wild Card game to the 88-74 St. Louis Cardinals last night, there’s reason to complain the new system is unbalanced and that a more deserving team has been left behind. But if the Orioles/Rangers wild card tie had occurred a year ago under the old system, these two 93-69 teams would be right where they ended up this year.

This Orioles-Yankees ALDS match-up isn’t happening because of a new playoff system that has somehow ‘shared the fun’ with Baltimore. And this certainly isn’t about the O’s getting lucky through the new format, as the tweet below states.

Baltimore advancing to the ALDS is about them playing a great regular season and posting the same record as back-to-back AL playoff champion Texas, before going on to defeat the Rangers by four runs in a single game that would have been played under the old system too. The Orioles have 100% earned their place in the ALDS and the team, not the new playoff format, deserves the credit.

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