This season has produced tight wild-card races in both leagues. But because extra wild cards, and thus two wild-card play-in games, were added to the schedule after it was already released, that leaves just one day to play off any potential ties.
It’s even messier than you think. What would happen, for example, if the Cardinals and Dodgers tied for the second NL wild card, with the Braves winning the other wild-card spot? Jayson Stark explains:
So let’s just say the Cardinals and Dodgers do indeed finish tied for that second wild-card spot. And let’s just say the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the tiebreaker game to nail down that spot.
Under the current schedule, the Cardinals would theoretically have to play Wednesday night in St. Louis, Thursday night in Los Angeles and Friday sometime-or-other in Atlanta. Well, guess what? That ain’t happening.
“Under no circumstances,” said one source familiar with these schedule issues, would MLB force the Cardinals to play Wednesday night in St. Louis, then fly to L.A. and get in at 3 or 4 a.m. on Thursday, play a game that night, then jump on another flight to Atlanta, arrive there at 7 or 8 next morning and play the wild-card game that night.
The result, Stark says, is that division series could be pushed back from their already-tight schedule — and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of a three-way tie. Consider this scenario:
Let’s say the Yankees, Rays and Orioles all finish with the same record. Their first order of business would be to decide the AL East champ. That would take two days.
If nothing significant changes in the next few weeks, the Rays (who have the best head-to-head record against the other two teams) would get to decide whether they want to play two home games to break that tie or let the other two teams play and face the winner on the road.
Once the division is decided, if the AL East “losers” were tied for the second wild-card spot, they would have to play again to break that tie. So it’s possible the Orioles, for instance, might have to play Wednesday in Tampa Bay, Thursday in New York, Friday in Baltimore, Saturday in Oakland/Detroit/Anaheim/Chicago and (depending on game times and logistics) Sunday in Baltimore. Some fun!
What a mess. Stark says this will (mostly) be accounted for in 2013; the schedule has been arranged so that multiple tiebreaker days will be available.
But this October? If there are multiple ties, it could cause a real headache for Bud Selig & Co.