A Cardinals World Series Win Would Be Very Bad For Baseball

by evanmcmurry

The wait-and-see narrative of the entire 2012 season has been the second Wild Card. Will it ruin baseball, will it make the final stretch more exciting, etc. We’ve had to wait the whole season to even ask these questions, let alone answer them.

Thus far, especially in the AL, it seemed to be a success: the two teams that qualified for the Wild Card were in contention for their division title until the last day of the season; either would have been in first place by five games in the AL Central. There was no mediocre team scooting into a playoff  in which they had no business playing, and we got a slightly more exciting September out of the extra slot.

The same can’t quite be said of the NL. Atlanta clinched the first Wild Card with 94 wins, beyond doubt a playoff team. But the Cards were nine out of first place in their division, and six games behind the Braves for the top Wild Card spot; they would have been in third place in the NL East. The 2011 Cardinals were the sort of rare come-from-behind team that makes playoffs exciting (recall the Rockies in ’07), getting hot late and playing some mean baseball down the stretch. But this year’s is a merely decent team that just happened to clear—barely—a newly-lowered playoff berth. In any other year, the Cards wouldn’t have been anywhere close to a postseason game.

In other words, if you want to make an argument that the second Wild Card is diluting the postseason by allowing subpar teams into the playoffs, the 2012 Cardinals look to be Exhibit A. If they make it to the World Series, and especially if they win the Championship, a lot of people will argue, pretty convincingly, that the second Wild Card was a terrible idea.