Let’s imagine for a minute that the Marlins had won that game on September 28, 2023 which was suspended in the ninth inning due to rain and they proceeded to win out ending the season with a record of 85-77. Let’s also imagine that the Cubs won their last game of the season. That would have left them in a tied with Arizona for sixth seed. Thanks to the current structure the Cubs still would have been eliminated.
However, the only reason the league uses head-to-head records in these situations is because of a deal that gives ESPN exclusivity on all four Wild Card Series which says the games have to all be played during the week following the regular season and conclude on Thursday. This also forces the best of three Wild Card Series to be played with no travel days. As a result, even if the Cubs and Arizona had ended up tied for the third Wild Card the Diamondbacks still would have played Milwaukee. Owners want to make as much money as possible and there are many other ways this could have been handled if it were not for the exclusive television rights Rob Manfred agreed to which eliminates travel days during the Wild Card round.
One of those ways would haves seen Arizona hosting a game 163 against the Cubs to determine the sixth seed. While this would be a lot like it was back when the league added the Wild Card back in 1995 following the lockout it would also require extra travel for both teams making it an unrealistic solution when we consider the fact that the league is trying to have the playoffs end before Halloween.
So, let’s discuss the other solution I thought of with some help from my fellow writers Steve Leblang and Gauarv Garg. For purposes of simplification lets imagine the exclusive TV rights were not part of the discussion therefore allowing travel days during the Wild Card Series. That would allow the Cubs and Arizona to play a game 163 in Arizona to determine sixth seed and delay the start of the Wild Card Series against Milwaukee by two days. So far this is the same as the first idea… this is where the travel days become important.
Since the Wild Card is a best of three instead of giving the Brewers home field advantage give them a 1-0 lead, since they were the higher seed to start the series, similar to what the Korean Baseball League does, since Milwaukee was the fourth seed. This would have allowed the Brewers a travel day to get to Chicago or Arizona for game one and also allowed another travel day if they diid not win game one. This would have still allowed all the other Wild Card Series to proceed as scheduled without delaying the American League Division Series. Also, it likely would not delay any other rounds from starting on time or the playoffs from ending before Halloween like the league wants.
With that… the exclusive television rights for the Wild Card Series are just icing on the fire Rob Manfred cake in my book because I cannot see owners ever agreeing to give the fourth seed a 1-0 lead to start the Wild Card series.
If you cannot play with them, root for them.