No one, especially me, could have predicted that the two Wild Card Game winners would make it to the World Series. Yet, here we are, the World Series coming up next week and the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals who won the Wild Card Game in their respective leagues are the opponents.
As you probably know, Kansas City has gotten to this point without losing a single game, eliminating the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game, blanking the powerful Western Division winning Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and embarrassing the Baltimore Orioles with a four game sweep. On the other side, the Giants knocked off the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game before making short work of the Eastern Division winning Washington Nationals, three games to one, in the NLDS and then easily handling the Central Division Champion St. Louis Cardinals four game to one.
It’s not the first time both opponents in the World Series got in by the Wild Card route. Back in 2002, the Angels and Giants, both Wild Card winners, met in the series. The Angels won that series in seven games.
In the 16 years since the Wild Card began in 1995 until 2012, when it was expanded from one team in each league to two, requiring a playoff game to get to the League Division Series, at least one Wild Card team made it to the World Series in nine different years. In those nine years the World Series was won by the Wild Card team five times. The Miami Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 in 1997, the Angels beat that year’s other Wild Card team, the Giants, 4-3 in 2002, the Marlins beat the Yankees 4-3 in 2003, the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 4-0 in 2004 and the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 in 2011.
I, for one, opposed the expansion of the Wild Card to two teams, mainly because of the fact that it required a single game elimination playoff to advance after playing 162 games to get there. Under the old system, even though a five game Division Series was and is still too short to me, at least it provided a reasonable test of a team’s ability that doesn’t happen in a single game playoff.
On the other hand, the Wild Card system has allowed some franchises that have not generally been in the hunt to compete in the playoffs and to reach the World Series. The Astros, Mets, Rockies and this year’s Kansas City Royals are perfect examples.
Whether you like the Wild Card system or not, this year’s World Series will be won by a Wild Card team. Which one it will be is anyone’s guess at this point. There is one thing certain, the winner won’t be either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Detroit Tigers as I predicted it would be on September 29.