Bud Selig and Major League Baseball have one again changed the layout of the land, announcing two major changes that will take effect starting in 2013. The first is that the Houston Astros will be moved to the American League and the second, and more important announcement, is that MLB will add one Wild Card spot to each league.
Both moves had been rumored to occur by various media outlets, but Thursday's announcement makes it official. Now, it will take some time to getting used to, but let's take a look at how the changes would have effected this season.
First, the Astros being in the American League - who will be moved to the AL West in 2013. If Houston occupied the AL West this past season, well, absolutely nothing would have changed. The only difference would have been that Seattle Mariners (67-95) would have finished second-to-last in their own division to the Astros (56-106).
Also, the Chicago Cubs (71-91) would have finished dead last in the AL Central, where the Astros currently reside and will for one more season. So, in essence, the Astros flip in leagues and divisions wouldn't have changed anything.
Then, there's the new Wild Card spots. In short, this move would have changed a lot.
First, and most importantly, the Boston Red Sox would have technically made the playoffs. That, in itself, is huge. Remember, many people have said that if the Sox made the playoffs, the post-collapse implosion and mud slinging at Fenway Park may never have happened.
Think about it. We ma not have learned about the drinking in the clubhouse and the consuming of fried chicken. Terry Francona may still have been the team's manager. Theo Epstein might have remained as the GM of the Red Sox, and maybe Jonathan Papelbon might have stayed in Boston. Wow.
But wait, there's a catch. With the new Wild Card spot, it's likely that there will be a one-game playoff between the league's two Wild Card teams. What would that have meant for the Red Sox? For starters, they would have gotten that one-game playoff with the Rays that everyone wanted. Translation? That magical final day of baseball would have meant nothing for the Red Sox. Win or lose against the Orioles, the would have played the Rays again.
In the National League, a lot could have changed as well. First, the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals may not have made the playoffs at all. There would have been a one-game playoff between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves for the NL Wild Card title, and who knows what could have happened then?
There's a lot to look forward to with this new addition, but there is also a lot that will be subtracted, at least in terms of enjoyment of the game. First, the extra Wild Card spot all but eliminates the special regular season one-game playoff for a postseason berth, and as I wrote before, that entire last day of the 2011 regular season wouldn't have mattered.
However, now there's an extra breath of hope for one more team in each league, and it does create a one-game play in game for the now second round of the postseason (if we're going by March Madness logic). Time will determine how the extra Wild Card spot works out, but for now, it certainly makes for interesting debate.