Why the Wild Card Can Be a Bad Idea
It was bound to happen sooner or later, and it has happened this year. The way the wild card works in Major League Baseball gives the St. Louis Cardinals an incentive, right now, to lose a couple of games.
Why? Because who the wild card team is in the National League playoffs will determine who the Cardinals play in the first round. And because the Cardinals are playing one of the teams remaining in the wild card competition--the Houston Astros. If Houston wins the wild card, St. Louis will begin the playoffs against San Diego, a team that might not have a winning record. And if St. Louis loses its Wednesday night game to Houston, then the Astros will need to win only 2 (at most) of their final four games against the Cubs to clinch the wild card. (St. Louis lost to Houston Tuesday night.)
If Houston does not win the wild card, then Philadelphia probably will, and St. Louis will start against the Phillies. The Phillies are a better team than is San Diego. They have a better record right now (84 - 74, compared with 78 - 79). They've scored 770 runs, compared with SD's 667. The two teams have virtually the same ERAs--4.23 for the Phillies, 4.24 for the Padres.
Who would you rather face, if you were the Cardinals?? So why would you try--really try--to beat the Astros?
And this will happen again. And again. And again. That much is certain. And some day, a team will not try to win.