Red Sox players iffy on extra wild card

March, 1, 2012
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If Major League Baseball’s proposed new playoff format had been around last year, the Boston Red Sox would have loved it. Instead of having their season end in such a rude and shocking fashion, they would have met the Tampa Bay Rays in a one-game wild-card playoff.

But the truth is, they don’t know what to make of it.

MLB could finalize the new 2012 postseason format as soon as today, adding two teams to the playoffs -- an extra wild-card team in each league. The plan would call for the winner of a one-game playoff between two wild-card teams to meet the team with the league's best record in the Division Series.

“One game? That’s kind of crazy,” DH David Ortiz said. “You know how many things we’ve got to move around and pack for one game? It’d make more sense for two wild cards to play at least a two-out-of-three series while the other teams take a break for three days because they won their divisions.”

Part of the problem appears to be that the players don’t understand the format, even though it was approved in November for the 2013 season after both the union and MLB were in favor of adding extra wild cards. Commissioner Bud Selig then made a push for the format to begin this year.

“Can I actually know what it is before I comment on it?” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “Let me get back to you, because I don’t even know. I want to get the facts.”

Outfielder Cody Ross didn’t seem thrilled when the format was explained to him.

“Say you win a wild card and you have a five-game lead over the other wild card, and the other team ends up winning the game,” he said. “That’s going to be controversial. That is a problem. I’m not a fan so far. It could obviously change my opinion after a few years.”

Said catcher Kelly Shoppach, “It really takes the 162-game schedule out.”

“I guess what we need to concentrate on then is not making the wild card and just winning our division, so we don’t have anything to worry about,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “I’m not a big fan of it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way it was before. But I guess there’s both sides of it.”

Part of the push for the expansion was to place more of a reward on winning the division after the St. Louis Cardinals became the fifth wild-card team to win the World Series since 1997. Ross sees that as an advantage of the new format.

“It’ll benefit the team that is the outright division winner, because chances are, you’re going to be lining up your ace to win that wild-card playoff game,” he said. “If you look at the standings at the end of the year, you’re going to go, ‘OK, we really have a good chance to win one of the two wild-card spots. Let’s mix up the rotation and get so-and-so to pitch the wild-card game.’ Then you go into the playoffs and you don’t even have your ace for the Division Series.”

But Saltalamacchia senses there’s green in the equation.

“It’s revenue,” he said. “It’s another game. It’ll be on TV. It’s going to make more money. That’s probably what it boils down to.”

Not so fast, Ross said.

“It could be less money,” he said. “What if a team like Boston or New York is one of the wild cards and loses to a lower-market team? That’s not going to be good.”



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