Mike Scioscia’s 2002 Angels won the franchise’s only World Series as a Wild Card, but that was not really such an exception.
Since 2000, teams with the best record in their league have been eliminated in the first round of postseason play more often (10 times) than Wild Cards (six times).
In that nine-year time frame, Wild Cards have reached the World Series eight times, winning it all on three occasions.
There’s more: Wild Card teams since 2000 have a combined 102-82 record compared to 78-78 by clubs that fashioned the best records in their leagues.
Going back to 1995 and the advent of the current system, Wild Cards have reached nine World Series and won four.
Clearly, going into the postseason as a second-place club is not such a bad deal at all.
Scioscia thinks Wild Card entries should enter the tournament with a more decided handicap rather than having the same path to travel as one of the three division champions.
“I’d like to see a 1-4 setup in the first round for the Wild Card teams,” Scioscia said. “Let them play the first game at home and then finish the series on the road. Or go to a 2-1-2 format.
“The way it is now, not enough weight is being given to division winners. Wild Cards should not be on the same ground.”
Scioscia always has attached more value to winning divisions across six months and 162 games – “the toughest challenge,” he calls it — than getting hot at the right time and winning 11 postseason contests.
Scioscia pointed out that this has nothing to do with the Angels facing a Wild Card in Boston next week for the second season in a row.
The Red Sox last year won the first two games in Anaheim, losing Game 3 at Fenway Park before claiming the series in Game 4.
Scioscia’s idea has merit. It should be more difficult for Wild Cards to make it through the opening round. You can win 100 games across six months and find your season over before you know what hit you.
The way it is now, all the Wild Card team needs to do is split the first two games on the road, and suddenly it is in the driver’s seat. Going home 1-1, two wins by the Wild Card eliminate a division champion.
This is the route Scioscia’s Angels took in ’02 when they won Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium and carried the momentum home to finish the job.
Giving the Wild Card the opener at home and then finishing the series in the house of the division winner also makes economic and environmental sense.
If the Angels and Red Sox split the first four games, they’ll return to Anaheim for Game 5 – two cross-country flights for a whole lot of people in the space of four days.
There’s no denying the success of Wild Cards in postseason play. But Scioscia, an independent thinker, will argue that it should have been even more difficult for his ’02 Angels to eliminate the Bronx Bombers en route to the Promised Land.