Braves GM Discusses Flaws With Wild Card Format, Infield Fly Rule

An article by posted on October 9, 2012

Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren, made a few suggestions about the Wild Card format during an interview with David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Did this game show what some view as an inherent flaw in the Wild Card single-game playoff?

“All of us at the general managers meeting when we talked about this format, it’s not a format that’s indicative of the best team. When you’re playing for six months and 162 games, this is not a sport where you play 20 games. This is not a sport where you play a handful of games, and then one game is appropriate. This is a sport where it’s about series, it’s about winning series. And one game is kind of a harsh reality.”

Could you see Major League Baseball tweaking the format?

“I think there’s a lot of people that love it. They love the drama. They’re not sitting where we’re sitting this morning. They love the drama, and I understand that. I’ve watched those 163rd games over the years and thought about, this is baseball drama at its best. I’ve also seen a real good friend of mine, David Dombrowski, play in one of those games a couple of years ago, and see what a crushing defeat it is. It’s a little bit different, that being a tie at the end of the season and a 163rd game. Postseason is supposed to be different.”

“Really what came down to the crux of the problem when we discussed it at the general managers level – obviously this is a decision made above the general managers level – but you don’t want to disadvantage the division winners as well, by having them sit. Because in many cases — and we’ve experienced it with the Braves over the years, where we clinched on the 20th of September and you’re now getting your team ready, and you lose that edge — well now all of a sudden you sit four or five days to play your first playoff game, there’s a good chance to lose your edge. So it’s a difficult fix, to say the least.”

Thinking outside the box, could they perhaps play a three-game Wild Card series in two days?

“That’s one off the things we discussed at the general managers meetings, make it a best two-out-of-three and play a split doubleheader the first day. I think all of us would prefer that. I mean, if you’re playing a team that’s got Randy Johnson — they really don’t have much else, but they’ve got Randy Johnson – you’re likely going to lose. But that same team is going to go into the playoffs and get swept.

“I guess it’s trying to fit everything into a neat little package that may not fit very well.”

On the infield-fly rule, do you think there might be a time where they change it, maybe say you can’t go more than 200 feet out, put a line down or something?

“I don’t know. It really comes down to umpire’s judgement. There’s always case studies after things happen, and usually it takes something like this for it to be studied further. I can’t remember, and I’ve been in the game 34 years, I can’t remember an infield fly rule having this big of an impact, and being talked about. So there’s a first time for everything.

“But that’s not the reason we lost the ballgame. We didn’t lose the ballgame because of that call. We lost the ballgame because we didn’t make routine plays. We had three of them that came back and bit us. And that’s not indicative of the way we played all year long. We played pretty sound baseball all year long. If there was any question about our club over the course of the season, it was would we be consistent enough offensively. And what did we end up with, 12 hits [in the Wild Card game]? If we make plays we win the game 2-1 or 3-1. They score one run. I know they end up getting more earned runs than that, because you can’t assume a double play. But they shouldn’t have scored.”

Read the rest of this interview here.

I thought this one-game Wild Card Round was a bad idea from day one. It doesn’t fit with the structure of the game in the grand scheme of things. When two teams face off in a minimum of a three game series, you test each team’s depth in the rotation, bullpen and bench. It’s a better indicator of which team is better at that time, and in the context of the post season, which team gets to advance to the next round. To go through the grind of a 162 game season to try and win a wild card, and then for it to be all over after a one game playoff, makes very little sense. This year it happened to the Braves, one year it could happen to the Mets.

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