Since the Wild Card round expanded in 2012, many have said that the system is flawed. Some argued that having one game decide a team’s fate was not fair. Especially since baseball is known for its “marathon, not a sprint” mantra. Some argued that having four undeserving teams offered a playoff opportunity is just plain wrong. Considering that, excluding 2021, the wild card round has featured exactly one team with over 100 wins–the 2018 New York Yankees–and has featured at least one team each year with less than 90 wins, it is a solid argument. The MLB Wild Card 2021 matchups have changed all of that.
The MLB Wild Card 2021 matchups prove that the current Wild Card format works. In short, the 2021 Wild Card round is a win for Major League Baseball. Coming off of tumultuous 2020 season and heading into the murky waters of offseason CBA negotiations, MLB needed this. Baseball fans needed this.
Why the MLB Wild Card 2021 Is a Win for MLB
The 2021 Wild Card round features two premiere matchups with storied rivalries, storied franchises, and four strong teams. There are no question marks surrounding the worthiness of any of these teams. They all played well enough to deserve a playoff berth.
For the first time since the expansion to four teams, there is not a single team playing that has below 90 wins. There is one team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, that has over 100 wins. Plus, arguably the hottest team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, made it in. Do not forget the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, both with 92 wins on the AL side.
Regardless of who wins these matchups, MLB, for once, has kicked off the postseason with the bang they dreamt of when they expanded to a wild card round.
Dodgers vs. Cardinals
The Los Angeles Dodgers set a new high-water mark for the most wins for a Wild Card team with 106. In any other division, they would have been division champions. In the American League, they would have clinched home-field advantage. As it stands, they need to win number 107 to continue on their quest to repeat as World Series Champions.
Featuring the high-priced, all-star-laden lineup, the Dodgers are one of MLB’s behemoths. Yet, here they are, fighting to advance. The fact that MLB’s defending World Series champion won the second-most games in baseball and is facing an elimination game is a great storyline for MLB.
On the other hand, the St. Louis Cardinals are one of, if not the, hottest team in baseball. They won 17 straight in the month of September. Despite losing their final two to the Chicago Cubs, they ended the season going 19-3. It is reminiscent of when they won the 2006 World Series by getting hot at the right time. Not only that, but this year is the 10 year anniversary of their last World Series title. Time will tell how far they go, but for now, they add intrigue and excitement to this year’s NL Wild Card Game.
Red Sox vs. Yankees
This matchup is arguably the most well-known rivalry in sports. The AL East is one of the strongest in the sport. With identical records, MLB must be ecstatic to see these two teams go head-to-head, the only obstacle being each other to reach the ALDS against division opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tensions are always high between the two. TV ratings are always increased. The storylines are plentiful. The only downside to this matchup for MLB is they can only get one game out of it.
With a year plagued by Covid-19 outbreaks, the New York Yankees persevered. They kept themselves in the race and that has paid off. Much like the Miami Marlins cinderella story last year where they overcame an extended shutdown only to make the expanded playoffs, the Yankees are a great story. However, it is impossible to cast the Yankees in the role of the underdogs given their storied history.
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