by Harold Friend
Once upon a time, if the team you rooted against finished second, you were happy because they would not go to the World Series. But that was then and this is now. There are now three divisions in each league. The second place team with the best record "wins" the wild card
The Red Sox Lead the Yankees by 6 Games
The Boston Red Sox lead the New York Yankees by 6 games at the All-Star break, but that doesn't mean that the Yankees can't win the pennant. The wild card gives the Yankees the chance to get into the playoffs, and as we all have been told repeatedly, the playoffs are a brand new season.
The 1954 Yankees and 1993 Giants Each Won 103 Games
When there were eight teams in each league, fans that pulled against a team had seven teams going for them. A great season ensured nothing. In 1954, the Yankees won 103 games, the most games a Casey Stengel managed team ever won -- and the season consisted of 154, not 162 games. The Yankees finished 8 games behind the Cleveland Indians. In 1993, the San Francisco Giants won 103 games and they finished second to the Atlanta Braves, who won 104 games. Many have expressed the opinion that the Giants got a raw deal.
The Wild Card Gave the Giants a Chance to Win
Well, let's go to 2002. The Giants finished second to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Western Division, but their 95 wins was good enough to make the playoffs. The Giants played the Braves, who had won 101 games, and defeated them in a hard-fought five game series. The Giants then beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of playoffs and met the Angels in the World Series. If it weren't for a Barry Bonds misplay in Game 6 and some poor pitching, the Giants would have won, but the Los Angeles Angels overcame a five run, seventh inning deficit to win Game 6 and went on to win Game 7.
The Yankees are Concerned With Tampa Bay and Teams in Other Divisions
The race for the wild card really eliminates divisions. The 2008 Yankees are concerned with Eastern Division rivals Boston and Tampa, but they are also going to be affected by the Central Division's Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, and possibly the Western Division's Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's. The White Sox now lead the Twins by 1 1/2 games, so today, the Twins are the Yankees' concern. But if the Twins overtake the White Sox, the Sox become the Yankees' problem. It used to be so simple to root against a team. The wild card makes it an exercise in combinations and permutations.