I got to thinking today. What if MLB still only had 2 divisions and there were no Wild Card.
Everybody's talking about how exciting the finishes are in Major League Baseball. They just aren't very exciting. Who cares if the Yankees catch the Red Sox. It just doesn't matter. They're both in the playoffs regardless of who technically wins the AL East title.
The Red Sox are beat up. Manny Ramirez has an oblique strain, and he has been running in the outfield. The Boston triners have "signed off" on him playing and so has Terry Francona. They're leaving it up to Manny, and he's going to sit out until the playoffs. Coco Crisp has been sitting out with some back pain. He'll be ready for the playoffs. Kevin Youkilis has a wrist bruise, and he's also taking a break. The fact is that these games aren't especially meaningful. If the playoffs started today, Ramirez, Crisp and Youkilis would all probably be in the lineup.
It's the same story with the Padres and D-Backs. Who cares which one wins the division? They are both in barring a total and complete collapse.
I know what you're saying. These teams want to play for home field advantage. Of all of the major sports, arguably, home field is least important in baseball. Last year, there were 7 postseason playoff series', and how many of those did the team with home field advantage win? The answer is 1 (Mets over Dodgers). Home field just don't matter much.
If MLB was formatted in 4 divisions (I'm naturally putting Arizona and Colorado in the NL West), we'd have a finish for the ages. Look at this.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Cleveland - 90-62 - ---
Boston - 90-63 - .5 games back
Yankees - 88-64 - 2 games back
Detroit - 83-70 - 7.5 games back
Milwaukee - 78-73 - 11.5 games back
Toronto - 77-75 - 13 games back
Baltimore - 64-87 - 25.5 games back
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels - 90-62 - ---
Seattle - 81-70 - 8.5 games back
Minnesota - 75-77 - 10.5 games back
Oakland - 74-80 - 17 games back
Texas - 70-82 - 20 games back
White Sox - 66-86 - 24 games back
Kansas City - 65-86 - 24.5 games back
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Mets - 84-67 - ---
Philadelphia - 82-70 - 2.5 games back
Cubs - 80-73 - 5 games back
St. Louis - 71-80 - 13 games back
Washington/Montreal - 68-84 - 16.5 games back
Pittsburgh - 66-86 - 18.5 games back
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Arizona - 86-67 - ---
San Diego - 84-67 - 1 game back
Colorado - 80-72 - 5.5 games back
Dodgers - 79-73 - 6.5 games back
Cincinnati - 69-83 - 16.5 games back
San Francisco - 67-85 - 18.5 games back
Houston - 66-86 - 19.5 games back
The Indians, Red Sox and Yankees would be scratching and clawing and scrapping for every possible win. Two of them would be left out of the postseason altogether. These games would be life and death, and we'd be hanging on every pitch. Guys like Ramirez, Crisp and Youkilis would be dragging themselves out on the field every night. The Indians would probably be in a 3-man rotation to get Sabathia and Carmona out there as much as possible. Joe Torre's job would be in even more jeopardy than it already is in.
Plus, it would be do-or-die every night for the D-Backs and Padres, with one team heading for the gold course in October.
Instead, we know 7 of the 8 teams that will have a shot at the World Series. The NL Central is still a toss-up between the Cubs and Milwaukee.
It's an open debate about whether or not the Wild Card is good for baseball.