The MLB playoffs begin this week with a pair of scintillating Wild Card match-ups: Baltimore at Toronto on Tuesday and San Francisco at New York on Wednesday, with the winners to play the Rangers and Cubs, respectively, in the division series.
If you’re not excited, well, you should be.
“I do like the second Wild Card, and I’ll tell you why,” former general manager and current SNY and MLB Network Radio analyst Jim Duquette said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think the pros outweigh the cons. We saw all these last-minute decisions and teams winning on the second-to-last day or the last day of the season, which I think is great for the sport. Secondly, it gives more of an advantage if you win the division. It wasn’t that long ago where teams were sitting there and they’re trying to decide do they win the division or do they take the Wild Card? And they’re like, ‘You know what? The division, if we win it, it really doesn’t mean that much. We’re going to set up our pitching and get ourselves healthy and just settle in and take the Wild Card because we have just as good of a chance. We just play one more road game.’”
That is no longer the case. If you run away with the division, that’s one thing, but if you’re neck-and-neck, you need to do everything you can to avoid the one-game playoff.
“I think the advantages are better now for the division winners, so that’s why I like it,” Duquette said. “Maybe you could stretch this Wild Card to two out of three, but that’s the main reason why I like this. I always like one-game play-ins anyway. I love the atmosphere around it, so I’m a pretty big proponent of it.”
Looking at the field, the Cubs are heavy favorites to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945, while the American League feels a little more wide open.
“I think it’s a fair assessment,” Duquette said. “If you look at that, first of all, I think the American League has been a tougher league overall than the National League by far, just when you look at the number of teams and how good they are. Injuries, I think, have affected some of these National League teams, and there’s no question. But I think there’s a couple that are slight favorites. Texas, I think, is pretty dangerous when you look at them and they put two really good starters at the top. Boston has been playing really well lately, so I give them a slight edge, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the other way, either. But in the National League, there’s a clear favorite there. I’d keep an eye on the Dodgers now that they’re finally healthy. Sometimes when you go through all those injuries and you get healthy towards the end, especially because (Clayton) Kershaw is one of those guys that got healthy and you know how impactful he can be – that’s a dangerous team, I think, for the Cubs too.”