Learning to Love the MLB's Crazy New Wildcard Games

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Are tonight's single play-in matches an affront to baseball or a needed shakeup?

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic),Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), discuss the MLB's new playoff format.


Gentlemen,

Amid the Olympics, the Joe Paterno saga, the replacement referees and the NHL lockout, the greater sports community has overlooked the biggest, craziest, most exciting new development in sports: the MLB's new playoff format. But this week, the super-tight American League has brought Bud Selig's zany experiment to the forefront of sports discussions nationwide. And despite the potential scheduling nightmares and mind-numbingly long list of postseason scenarios, boy it is fun.

Under the new format, each league will send the three division winners and two wild card teams to the playoffs. The two wild cards in each league will play each other in winner-take-all play-in games on Friday, and the winners will advance to the divisional series. The concern among many in baseball was that there would be a tie for the second wild card spot, leading to a playoff just to get into the play-in game to get into the real playoffs... you get the idea.

That didn't happen. Complicated? Sure. A potential nightmare for ticket sales, TV schedules and the blood pressures of diehard fans across the country? Absolutely. But it's wild, unpredictable, and a formula for one magical day after another in this Wild Wild Card week. On Tuesday night, the Yankees came back to beat the Red Sox in 12 innings to stay a game ahead of the Orioles in the AL East, while the Athletics tied the Rangers in the AL West. And that was only Tuesday! The rest of the was almost as exciting, so you can count me as an unabashed fan of Bud's crazily awesome new postseason format.

You agree, Patrick?

–Jake

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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