The 2012 season will be the first season of the second wild card and there will now be a play-in game to make the Division Series. It was going to take place by 2013, but was added for this season recently. Commissioner Bud Selig said this would add excitement but I doubt it will top the Cardinals and Rays run when they clinched the wild card on the last day of the season. The division winners will wait to see who wins the wild card play in game for the Division Series to start. The Division Series is still a best of five, although I think it should be a best of seven myself. Proponents of the expanded playoffs say this will give division winners more of an edge, but the wild card has been the team with the second best record several times before.
I'm sure there is going to be a scenario one day were a 95 win team loses to a 86 win team in one game wild card round and goes home. One dominant pitcher on a inferior team could knock off a better team in this scenario. I don't think one game is a good way to decide a playoff unless the two teams are tied for the lead. Last year it would of pitted the Cardinals against the Braves and the Rays against the Red Sox, despite those two teams coughing up their leads late in the year. Below is a look at past years and how the second wild card would of played out. Wins are in parentheses.
Year Wild Card #1 Wild Card #2 Wild Card #1 Wild Card #2
1995 Rockies(77) Astros(76) Yankees(79) Angels(78)
1996 Dodgers(90) Expos(88) Orioles(88) Mariners(85)
1997 Marlins(92) NYM/LA(88) Yankees(96) Angels(84)
1998 *Cubs(90) *Giants(89) Red Sox(92) Blue Jays(88)
1999 *Mets(97) *Reds(96) Red Sox(94) Athletics(87)
2000 Mets(94) Dodgers(86) Mariners(91) Indians(90)
2001 Cardinals(93) Giants(90) Athletics(102) Twins(85)
2002 Giants(95) Dodgers(92) Angels(99) Bos/Sea(93)
2003 Marlins(91) Astros(87) Red Sox(95) Mariners(93)
2004 Astros(92) Giants(91) Red Sox(98) Athletics(91)
2005 Astros(89) Phillies(88) Red Sox(95) Indians(93)
2006 Dodgers(88) Phillies(85) Tigers(95) White Sox(90)
2007 *Rockies(90) *Padres(89) Yankees(94) Det/Sea(88)
2008 Brewers(90) Mets(89) Red Sox(95) Yankees(89)
2009 Rockies(92) Giants(88) Red Sox(95) Rangers(87)
2010 Braves(91) Padres(90) Yankees(95) Red Sox(89)
2011 Cardinals(90) Braves(89) Rays(91) Red Sox(90)
Three different times teams have tied for the wild card spot forcing a one game playoff, those teams have an asterisk next to them. The last one being the Padres and Rockies in 2007, and that was an exciting game in which the Rockies won in extra innings. Three other times the second wild card spot would of ended in a tie, in 1997(Mets, Dodgers), 2002(Mariners, Red Sox), and 2007(Tigers, Mariners). Also in 1996 the Mariners would of won the second spot with a 85-76 record, beating out the Red Sox and White Sox who both had a 85-77 record. I suppose the Mariners would of had to make up a rainout and if they lost it would of been a three way tie for the second spot. I wonder how that would of been sorted out. The 102 win 2001 Athletics would of been forced to play the 85 win Twins in the play in game, which is the biggest difference between a wild card team and the runner up since the wild card was implemented. I'm not sure how baseball will handle some of these scenarios, but I do think there will be fluky teams upset teams with better records in this new playoff game.