When first instituted, the MLB’s Wild Card was not met with much fanfare. Instead, it was met with boos and hisses and calls for Bud Selig to be fired. Deservedly, through the years, Selig has earned a lot of that flak.  But to be fair, this year is proving his case that the Wild Card is in fact something that he got right – evidenced by the 2013 AL Wild Card race.

Unlike the National League, in which every division and Wild Card has been pretty wrapped up since late August, the American League is going to have a frantic final few weeks.  Remember 2011, when the last at-bat of the season moved one team into the playoffs and one team out of the playoffs?  Well, that could happen again this year.  And then some.

Barring any collapse, the AL Wild Card race includes 5 teams within two games of each other fighting for the last playoff spot.  Those involved in the insanity include the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees.  And once you throw in the AL West divisional race, where the A’s and Rangers are neck and neck, one of those teams may find themselves in the middle of that Wild Card frenzy and go from hosting a first-round Divisional series to out of the playoffs within 5 games.  That, my friends, is genius marketing by Bud Selig and the guys that brought you the Steroids Era.  At least this time, though, we don’t have to look at Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in togas and later regret ever seeing that vision.

This excitement is of a different mold.  It’s pure baseball fanaticism.  Not only are there teams with rich histories that are easy to hate, but there are also new teams that have not sniffed the playoffs for quite some time.  In fact, once the Pirates clinch, the Royals and the Indians will carry the torch for teams with the longest playoff drought.  The AL Wild Card has it all – fresh blood, new blood, and old blue vein blood.  You couldn’t ask for anything better.  (I am getting the Giggity Giggity’s as I type this.)

I have to admit, I was not that fond of the 5th Wild Card team, opening up what could be a can of crazy with a side dish of unfair for those teams that get squared away in the “play-in” game.  Let’s not even begin the discussion of why the best team in each league opens up on the road for the first two games of a 5-game series either.  Or, what happens if there are multiple teams tied – division and/or Wild Card – making for one-game play-ins of their own across the country potentially.  Instead, let’s be positive and focus on the five to seven teams in contention this year, which could put how the 2011 season ended out to pasture.  There’s no need to be a Debbie Downer.  Purchase the ticket, drink the Kool-aid, and enjoy the intoxicating ride.

[SI, NY Times, YouTube]