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Expanded MLB playoffs take away from October drama

I spent most of my Monday evening watching the Rays and Rangers play game 163 of their schedules for the chance to face the Indians in the American League wild card game.

It definitely was an exciting game. Anytime two teams are tied after a 162 game season, you know fans had the opportunity to watch quite a race.

But the game did not have that serious tiebreaker feel to me. This is because playoff races have not been the same in Major League Baseball since the format was expanded to 10 teams in 2012.

From 1995 until the beginning of the 2012 season, four teams from the American League and four teams from the National League made the playoffs. The format selected one team from each division and one wild card team.

There was plenty of excitement with an eight-team playoff. In each year from 2007 through 2009, there was an MLB tiebreaker game. Twins fans remember this, as the team lost game 163 to the White Sox in 2008 but rebounded in 2009 to beat the Tigers.

Baseball has long been the toughest American professional sport for a team to make the postseason. Before wild card teams were established, only four teams made the postseason in MLB for decades. Teams would battle for one playoff spot in the West and East divisions in the A.L and the N.L. In the 1993 season, the last full season before wild card spots were established, the San Francisco Giants won 103 games but still missed the playoffs by a game!

So, getting back to last Monday’s game, the tiebreaker between the Rangers and Rays settled who would play in the A.L.’s one-game wild card playoff.

If the same race had taken place before 2012, the season would have ended for both the Rays and Rangers. Cleveland would be the only wild card team and they would be facing the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs.

But now, in 2013, the Rays basically can win two tiebreaker games to get to divisional series play. At least that’s how it works in my mind.

It seems as though MLB decided in 2012 they want the thrill of a tiebreaker game for their fans every season with this one-game wild card round. Why else would they break away from the typical five and seven game series they use the rest of the playoffs?

It is crazy that after four teams play a 162 game schedule, their season basically comes down to a single game. There is even the possibility that a third-place team could win the World Series.

The league needs to stop this nonsense. I understand most likely MLB will never go back to the eight-team playoff format, but expansion can no longer be an option.

The fans do not want to have a league where mediocre teams make the postseason. In the NBA and the NHL, 16 of the leagues’ 30 teams have a chance every year to win a championship. Oftentimes, this includes teams with a losing record.

MLB is the oldest American professional sports league with the most tradition. Instead of cheapening things, let’s keep the playoffs an exclusive club for only the best teams.

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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