Now that the Royals appear to be on the verge of at least a Wild Card spot, a new conversation has begun - should the new Major League Baseball Wild Card even be considered the "playoffs"?
In 2012, Major League Baseball added a second Wild Card to play the first Wild Card in a one-game playoff. They did so in part to create more excitement in more cities due to more post-season opportunities, and also to reward division title winners over Wild Card winners. But should a one-game, do-or-die situation be considered a playoff? Here's what Twitter had to say:
@royalsreview Yes. But it's also a trap. If the Royals manage a division series win, I'll be impressed.— Gus Booth (@CommissarTaco) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview I'd say no, but only because I consider it a play-in game. Just like the four teams who lose the play-in in March Madness.— Laird Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview absolutely. We would be playing baseball & almost no one else would be. I'll gladly take it.— RoyalsMagicNumber (@KCMagicNumber) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview Only as much as I consider every game this week a playoff game. I think of it as a play-in game to make the playoffs.— K. Connaghan-Gross (@ConnaghanGross) September 24, 2014
@KCMagicNumber @royalsreview if we go on road & lose it than no I don't. Long as we have least 1 game at home I'll count it— Royals Optimist (@Royalsoptimist5) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview If we play it at home...MAYBE. After all, #1 wild card offers same number of guaranteed home games as winning AL Central— Austin (@horsepire) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview if they make it more than one game- Yes. I can't get past one game decider as post season— greg schaum (@Greg_Schaum) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview If a wild card team were to advance to the World Series, would the appearance not count? It's an official playoff spot.— Gnarlymutt (@gnarlymutt) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview Doesn't matter. You know DM will go to his grave saying it was a fully fledged playoff appearance regardless of what we think— Parker (@Parker__Sanders) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview Who cares. The fact that we, as Royals fans, are in a place to even ask questions like this is good enough for me.— Ryan Hobart (@rhobart) September 24, 2014
@royalsreview I'll be pretty drunk either way.— $ean Donnelly (@theparmaSEAN) September 24, 2014
I like this Donnelly kid.
People seem to be conflating a number of different questions when tackling this issues. The first, is whether the Wild Card should be considered a playoff due to its one-game nature. I'll get to that in a bit, but that is the legitimate question to ask.
The second is whether adding another Wild Card has watered down the quality of the playoffs, thus making the Wild Card not a playoff series. To me, we crossed this bridge in 1969 when we went to a divisional format. This allowed a lesser team in one division to make the playoffs even if there may have been 2-3 teams in the other division with more wins, but not playoff eligibility. The 1985 World Champion Royals had the third best record in the American League, winning just 91 games, should they have been one of the two teams left playing in October? i understand the concerns of watering down the playoffs (which is why I was against the Wild Card initially), but that should have little to do with the legitimacy of the Wild Card as a playoff itself.
Another question confusing the issue is whether reaching the Wild Card game would constitute a success for Dayton Moore and the 2014 Royals. To me, this is a wholly separate question that has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the Wild Card itself. Success has to do with a number of issues such as player development, win totals, success in the post-season, and his final report card will come down to more than whether the Royals "made the playoffs" or not.
An additional issue that seems to conflate the question a bit is whether one likes the Wild Card or not. Again, this is a separate issue from the question as to whether the Wild Card is a playoff or not. As Craig Brown at Royals Authority wrote:
So, to answer my own question, yes the Wild Card is the postseason. Baseball says it is, so while I may dislike the Wild Card, it’s a real thing. There are 10 teams who aren’t participating. It’s a playoff.
In my opinion the Wild Card is unquestionably a playoff game. Major League Baseball has created an additional playoff game, it is definitely not a regular season game, and a Wild Card winner has a shot to win the World Series. People argue that due to its one-game nature, it should not be a Wild Card. I get that point of view, but I don't think that should preclude it from being a playoff. A seven-game series is not exactly a significant sample of games to determine a champion, so why not a one-game playoff? I would like to see the Wild Card expanded to at least a best-of-three format, but I don't feel the one-game experience should preclude the Wild Card from being a playoff.
In the end, its an interesting topic to debate and discuss, but ultimately its a pointless splitting of hairs not seen since the "is it a sandwich?" internet debates of the summer of 2014. When it comes down to it, the Royals can clinch an opportunity to be playing baseball next week, something only ten teams will be able to say. So sit back and enjoy the ride.