The Wild Card races in the American and National Leagues could hardly be more different. Over in the AL, only four teams are playing at a level that would normally make them contenders, but the rules require that a fifth team qualify for the postseason, so one team from a remarkably mediocre group is going to get rewarded with a playoff spot even though they may end the year with 82 or 83 wins. The AL Wild Card game is very likely going to feature one of the weakest postseason teams we’ve seen since the playoffs expanded to include non-division winners.
In the National League, though, the Wild Card game is going to be a clash of the titans. The three best records in the NL all come from the Central division, meaning that the Wild Card game is likely to be a showdown between the Pirates and Cubs, unless one of those two can run down the Cardinals for the division title. There are still other possible outcomes, but most likely, the NL Wild Card game this year will pit two excellent Central division teams against each other, probably for the right to play the NL Central winner in the Division Series.
Meanwhile, the winners of the NL West and NL East — right now, the Dodgers and Mets, who currently hold the fourth and fifth best records in the league — are set to play each other for the right to advance to the NL Championship Series. Because of the playoff structure and the dominance of the Central teams this year, we’re almost guaranteed to only have one team in the NLCS out of the clubs with the three best regular season records, with lesser performing teams getting an easier path to the pennant.
And, understandably, that’s frustrating for anyone rooting for an NL Central club this year. The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond spoke to some of the players on the teams involved, who said things like this:
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