Wild-Wild Card Races Add Furry And Excitement

By Francis Walker
Updated: November 19, 2007

Phillies Marlins Montreal Expos Diamond Backs

Boston Red Sox White Sox Minnesota Twins Seattle Mariners NEW YORK, NY. — The National League Wild Card race has heated up. More than a month ago, four teams were 5 ½ games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. As the month of August comes to an end, there are eight teams in the running for the NL Wild Card playoff berth. Six of those eight teams are within 1-½ games behind both the Phillies and the Florida Marlins.

The concept of the Wild Card Pennant race came shortly after Major League Baseball’s realignment in the mid 90’s.

Both the American and National Leagues expanded from the typical Eastern and Western divisions to the East, Central, and West divisions.

Each first place team would be crowned as their division’s champions. The team that finished with the best record that did not win their division would be crowned as the Wild Card winners.

Since the mandate of the Wild Card in each league, baseball has been more competitive. Without the Wild Card playoff race, teams that are presently in a playoff race would not be in competition under baseball’s old East-West division alignment where only the division champions would make the playoffs.

Interestingly enough, teams such as the 1997 Florida Marlins and the 2002 Anaheim Angels would not have even made the playoffs had they not won the Wild Card races. Both teams went on to win their first World Series titles in Franchise history.

When was the last time the Montreal Expos competed for playoff spot? In 2002, the Expos finished above .500 for the first time in six years. The year the Florida Marlins, who entered the leagues as an expansion team in 1993, won the World Series was the only time in history they finished above .500 (90-72). The Arizona Diamond Backs, who entered the Majors in 1998 as an expansion team won their first World Series in 2001 by defeating the New York Yankees in a dramatic seven-game series.

Although this season the Diamond Backs have struggled and their ailing pitching aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are having terrible season since coming off surgery less than a year ago, the Diamond Backs are still in the running to make the playoffs.

Let’s not forget about the American League. The AL east division race between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox has been close all season long with the biggest lead for the Yankees being 5 ½ games. The AL West division race between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners is as close it’s ever been. If either team finishes in second place, its almost certain that only one of those second place teams will make the playoffs. Therefore, each game counts.

Even more interesting, the AL Central division winner will be decided by three teams: the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins. However, since the Red Sox and the Mariners (currently in second place in their divisions) are doing so much better than every team in the AL Central, only one team from the AL Central can and will make the playoffs – the AL Central division champions.

Baseball is as dramatic as it’s ever been, and with every game the sports becomes increasing more fun to watch. With the Wild Card berth format, every team has a chance to win.