Major League Baseball's addition of a second wild card to each league seems to have been something done with the American League East firmly in mind. Sure, the AL East is not the reason why we'll have five playoff entrants from each league instead of four beginning in 2012, but one can't help but think how much this impacts that division. In three of the past four seasons, the second wild card would've come out of the AL East, and that is a fact that becomes particularly compelling when you realize the level of competition that exists in that division. Coming out on top is probably something that merits more pride than it would in any other division, but then to be the third best team in the AL East and still have a better record than any other non-division winner? That's quite a feat.
Ideally, the solution for the uber-competitive nature (and perhaps, unfair nature) of playing in this division would be to break it up. Right now that is, of course, a pretty unpalatable solution, but with the addition of two more teams to the sport, it would suddenly become practical. MLB could adopt a football-style format with four divisions in each league and six playoff spots – an infinitely more sensible format than the current uneven nature of the divisions and the uneven number of playoff spots. Among the many benefits that could be derived from such a system include the near-impossibility of a playoff-deserving team from being excluded from the dance. Of course "playoff-deserving" is a pretty vague term, but the point here is that no matter how good your division is, if your team is good, you can make the playoffs. See the NFL's AFC North this year for a particularly relevant example – the Cincinnati Bengals played behind two of their league's three best teams, but were still able to make the playoffs.
Imagine for a moment a division that the Toronto Blue Jays shared with only one of the Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees/Tampa Bay Rays, or maybe even none of them! Perhaps a relocation to a newly formed AL North with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox. Most of us would say the Jays are clearly the second best team in such a hypothetical division right now, with the upside of being the best by the beginning of 2013.
Of course, interrupting our dream is the fact that baseball has no current plans for expanding to 32 teams, and there really aren't even any obvious cities in which to place an additional pair of franchises. Sure, San Jose seems obvious… but remember, that is poised to be the destination of a relocating franchise, not a new one. When Puerto Rico gets frequent mentions as one of the next most capable cities for supporting a new baseball team you know you have a long road ahead of you. And sure, the New York metro area certainly looks like it could support another team (and maybe even needs another one to make sure an entire generation of Mets fans don't become disenchanted and start rooting for the Yankees) but that doesn't look like it's very realistic either.
Unfortunately, Blue Jays fans, it looks like another wild card will have to do from now. Not the most ideal situation, but it's certainly better than where we've been for the past many years.
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