I’ve posted before how the standings on July Fourth are typically a good indicator of which teams will make the playoffs.
I wasn’t so sure the addition of a second wild card would affect the postseason races all that much over the final three months, but it certainly has with the season drawing to its dramatic close on Wednesday.
Here’s a quick look at the division leaders on the Fourth of July: Yankees, White Sox, Rangers | Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers.
And the wild cards: Orioles, Angels…Giants, Reds.
As we can see, only two of the division leaders went on to close the deal (Yankees, Nationals) and only one wild card team (Orioles) finished where they were on July Fourth.
The Giants and Reds, of course, ascended to division titles and the Rangers still slipped in as a wild card. Even the Cardinals, winners of the second wild card, were just a game back of its place on July 4.
So nearly half the field in postseason-position on July Fourth didn’t make the cut (White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers & Angels).
What’s more, three other teams reached the postseason despite a sub .500 record at the Fourth of July (Detroit, Oakland & Atlanta). Coincidentally, all three were in third place in their respective divisions at the time.
One could argue a second wild card did little to spice up the races considering all three AL division titles were decided by 3 or fewer games…the NL East was a close race in the Senior Circuit…and the other two NL divisions were blowouts anyway.
But the beauty of the second wild card, however, kept postseason hopes alive in those tight division races with teams fighting for home field advantage and to avoid the single elimination wild card play-in game.
The wild cards also made for meaningful baseball games among teams like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Tampa and Anaheim…not to mention, held out hope during the collapse of division leaders on the South Side of Chicago, Chavez Ravine, Texas and Pittsburgh.
In its first season the extra wild cards have been everything baseball fans, including myself, had hoped it would be…perhaps making those Fourth of July predictions much more precarious than they use to be.