MLB Wildcard: League Champs to Wildcard players

October 4, 2012


This MLB playoff year is starting off in a new and interesting way. In the past there have been four teams that make the playoffs from each league. There would be one wildcard team and they would play the team with the best record in their respective league. However, in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement they sought to change the playoff system.

After last years wildcard with teams falling from playoff spots and barely missing the playoffs. In the new format there is an extra wildcard playoff team that is added and a sudden death wildcard playoff game was put in place. This allows teams one final chance to make it to the “best of” games in the playoff system. This years match-ups for this inaugural wildcard sudden death are very interesting.

They include the two teams who played for the World Series last year and two teams who missed out on the playoffs all together. The AL match-up puts the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers against the seemingly unlikely Baltimore Orioles. The NL match-up includes the defending NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals against the previously disappointed Atlanta Braves. Both match-ups include their own bit of fun and can be seen to favor either team.

However, only one team will win, and it will only take one game for the victor to move on to face the team with the best record in their respective leagues. To think after the first day of playoff games we could lose both defending league champions, and it is quite possible that they could both fall.

Texas Rangers v.s. Baltimore Orioles

Lets start with the American League match-up this match-up includes two teams that have been playing well all year and both have a lot to gain from this game. The defending American League Champions Texas Rangers have been at the top of the American League for some time now. In fact the past two years they have made it to the World Series. Texas has been a force to be reckoned in the past couple of seasons, however they have not been able to finish it off with the World Series.

This makes Texas a hungry team for winning this game and even to make it back to the World Series and possibly win. Texas also boasts many great players and pitchers including the man who has seemingly turned the franchise around the last few years, Josh Hamilton. That coupled with their new pitching machine Yu Darvish who posted an impressive 16-9 record and will be starting for the Rangers against the Orioles.

Their opponent, the Baltimore Orioles, have been busy through the offseason and into the regular season. The Orioles who have not made the playoffs 1997 so they are looking to begin their own postseason glory, and what better way to start than knocking off the defending League Champs. The Orioles come into the postseason having worked very hard and long to get here. They have played many close, extra inning games that have worn them out. However, with Buck Showalter behind the helm this group of fairly unknown players into a team has real playoff potential.

Within this team of unknowns arose 3 all-stars who helped lift the Orioles to this achievement. With Matt Wieters coming in on the hitting side and Jim Johnson as a solid closer the Orioles have been able to sneak out of their fair share of close games and sneak into the playoffs.

The Verdict:

As cliché as it sounds this game will come down to the team who wants it more. Both teams are very deserving to win this game as both have been competing tough throughout the entire season. The Rangers are coming in having blown a 6 game lead in their division to the Oakland A’s including being swept by those A’s in their last 3 games of the season. Texas comes into this game a bit demoralized and down on their luck. However, they could also use that to their favor and use this demoralization to actually motivate them to a win. The Orioles on the other hand have a lot of moral going for them right now by just having made the playoffs and having fought the Yankees up to the wire for the AL East title. Despite having a strong team, and with Darvish pitching I think that the Orioles pull this game out in another close one that might take extra innings to decide.

St. Louis Cardinals v.s. Atlanta Braves

On to the NL we will start with the defending World Series Champs, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals came from the Wildcard to win it all last year and who is to say that it won’t happen again. They come back into the playoffs looking to prove that last year was not a fluke and they belong as one of the top tier teams in Major League Baseball.

With stars like Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran swinging the bats it is no wonder that the Cardinal have made it back to the postseason. Although, after a World Series it is probably a little disheartening to find themselves in this sudden death Wildcard game. That however can be contributed by a Cincinnati Reds team that has been on fire this year posting the second best record in the majors.

Their opponents are the ever-playoff present, Atlanta Braves. Last season the Braves came up one game short of making the playoffs after the second biggest collapse in baseball last year (after that of the Red Sox). The Braves come into the playoffs this year like the Cardinals, trying to prove something. They are trying to prove that last year was a fluke (unlike the Cardinals).

They, like St. Louis, are in the Wildcard match-up because of the strength of the team that won their division. The Nationals practically ran away with the NL East title and made it very difficult for the Braves to catch up no matter how many games they won. This is also Chipper Jones’ final playoffs and the Braves will want their poster-boy to go out with a bang.

The Verdict:

This second Wildcard game breaks down a bit differently than the other one. The Braves come in to this series 14 of their last 18 including a 3 game sweep of the NL East winning Nationals just a few short weeks ago. The Cardinals are 12 of their last 16 which included 2-1 series victories over both the Nationals and the Cardinals. Lets face it both of these teams are coming into October having proven in the last few weeks that the definitely do belong in playoff baseball. They are peaking at the right time. In picking a winner I would have to give a slight edge to the Braves for having stuck with and competed so well against Washington this season. This will be another close game and really could go either way.

As has been shown we are about to be treated to a great bit of sudden death playoff baseball and in looking at these two games I can only imagine what the rest of October has in store if this is the way we get to start. Just the name Sudden Death Wildcard strikes in your heart an idea that these teams are fighting for their existence in these playoff, and with these four teams playing you know its going to be good. We could end up with a rematch of last years World Series or we could even end up with a match-up of the Nationals and the Orioles. Both of which were teams that were not on a lot of playoff radars at the onset of this season.

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About Andrew Ware

Seminary student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. But most of all a follower of Jesus Christ.

View all posts by Andrew Ware


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