Screwing with the game

It's episodes like the Joba-Youk incident that make me wish the American League didn't have the DH.

Meanwhile, the New York Times' Murray Chass -- often a tendentious Yankee homer, IMHO -- today insists he wasn't trying to bait Tito yesterday, and he weighs in with a pretty good column about the pros and cons of the wild card format.

The 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2002 Anaheim Angels and — who can ever forget? — the 2004 Red Sox won the World Series as wild cards.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a second-place team emerging on top, especially when that team may have a better record than some other division champion, and not that there’s anything wrong with keeping teams in contention deeper into the season than they would otherwise be. And not that there’s anything wrong with putting more people in the parks in September and creating more revenue for more teams and increasing the television ratings.

All of those reasons are why Commissioner Bud Selig loves the wild card, which was created by necessity when the leagues went to three divisions. But Selig the baseball fan would have to acknowledge that the wild card detracts from the division races.

In 1993, Atlanta won 104 games and San Francisco 103 in one of the most stirring division races ever. Proponents of the wild card often cite that race as validating the creation of the extra playoff spot. The Braves went to the playoffs and the Giants went home, and it wasn’t fair to the Giants. They deserved better, especially because the playoff team from the other National League division, the Phillies, won 97.

But even with the wild cards, a good team can miss out on the playoffs by finishing a victory behind the best second-place team.

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