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In MLB Wild Card Game, David Has Even Chance of Toppling Goliath

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Ned Yost Led the Small Market Royals Over the Largest Market Yankees in the 2015 Wild Card Game

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Thus begins the bellyaching. Rather than relish the idea that their team has overachieved and likely qualify for the playoffs, Cincinnati fans are choosing to blame Major League Baseball for a game it has not even lost yet.

This sentiment has now been memorialized by sports columnist Paul Daugherty, a long time writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Instead of praising the idea that the Reds are ahead in the Wild Card race in the National League, Daugherty is criticizing the postseason format.

Without the current Wild Card setup, as Daugherty should know, the Reds would have no shot at the postseason in 2021. In the format MLB used before 2012, only one team qualified as a Wild Card.

It is almost like Donald Trump criticizing the election process, even though he himself won the Presidency through that very process. Oh yeah, and Daugherty sounds like Trump when he assumes the Reds will lose the Wild Card game several months before it even takes place, much the way the former President began sowing doubts about the voting procedure as though he were already conceding that he would lose.

“A one-game decider disrespects the pastime's best attribute and makes even more plain the huge advantage owned by big-money clubs,” Daugherty stated in his August 26 column about the Wild Card format.

The big-money club referred to is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who currently hold the number one spot in the Wild Card race. Should the standings remain the way they are, the second place Wild Card Reds would have to fly to Dodger Stadium for a one-game matchup with the reigning World Series Champions.

Daugherty's criticism of the one and done format is totally unfounded, as revealed by a cursory look at the eight year history of the current concept. The one game playoff was instituted in 2012, and since then the Davids have slain the Goliaths more than the other way around.

In its very first year the small market Orioles, who rank 24th in market size, beat the eighth largest market Texas Rangers in the one game playoff. The same thing happened in the Senior Circuit when St. Louis, ranked nineteenth in market size, beat tenth ranked Atlanta.

While the difference in the market sizes were not as pronounced the next year, the 28th ranked Tampa Rays beat the 21st ranked Cleveland Indians in the one-game decider. Two years later saw the Wild Card that really kills Daugherty's argument about big market clubs having an advantage, when the Royals beat the Yankees.

Kansas City happens to have the smallest market of the thirty teams, while the Yankees of course are number one. According to Daugherty's assumption the Royals had no shot of besting New York in a one-game round, yet but Kansas City sent the Bronx Bombers home for the winter.

One year later David again toppled Goliath, albeit it was a less petite David and a less monstrous Goliath. The eighteenth ranked San Francisco Giants defeated the number four New York Mets in the one game playoff, a feat Daugherty feels next to impossible under the Wild Card format.

More recently in the 2018 Wild Card matchup, the team with the 20th market size, the Colorado Rockies, faced the sixth ranked Chicago Cubs. As seems to be the case in fifty percent of the Wild Card games since 2012, the smaller sized Rockies beat the big market Cubs.

Sure, the Reds, if they maintain their second place Wild Card spot, will have to face a Cy Young starter in either Walker Buehler or Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw or Trevor Bauer. It sounds like a tough task but, according to the history of the current format, Cincinnati has at least a fifty-fifty chance of advancing.


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