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Selig makes MLB more interesting

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
August 16, 2003
Say what you like about Larry Bud' Selig, but the much beleaguered baseball commissioner did get one thing right.
When Selig asserted his innovation of having a wild card team in the baseball playoffs, he made the month of August just that much more interesting.
Baseball's 162-game schedule is a marathon.
The games, which have reportedly shaved of a handful of minutes in playing time this year, are long, drawn-out affairs not hip to the MTV and Sports Center highlights age.
Baseball fans watch June and July games out of a labor of love, and watching these contests in the height of summer heat is laborious, make no doubt about that.
Just ask the six or seven people who still watch the Detroit Tigers.
But come mid-August, baseball really begins to heat up, and scoreboard watching begins a game within itself as team's battle for a postseason spot.
Baseball, like all sports, saves its best for last.
It used to be two or three teams battling for first inside the division at the end of the season, but thanks to the wild card, more teams have a chance to play past the final regular-season game.
The games also become all the more interesting in August, as fans can figure out a multitude of scenarios in which their team can either win the division, get the wild card spot or pack it up until next year.
Just look at what baseball is offering viewers at the start of the week the Boston Red Sox vs. the Oakland Athletics.
The A's are making their annual second-half push, putting pressure on American League West Division leader Seattle and making every team with wild card hopes sweat.
The Red Sox are going into their annual early hibernation falling farther and farther behind New York and seemingly giving away the wild card berth.
The four-game series in California, which wrapped up Thursday, wasn't just another game in the smorgous board of baseball, these games practically decided who gets into the postseason.
And what a start the series gave, A's ace Tim Hudson battling Red Sox stud Pedro Martinez on Monday.
Hudson got the best of the primetime pitching match up hurling a two-hit victory and handing Martinez his first lose in three months.
By the end of the series, Boston held a one-game lead in the wild card race.
But the Red Sox/A's series and AL wild card battle is just an appetizer of how much fun baseball gets at the end of the year.
Cast your eyes over to the National League postseason race, and younger readers will begin to understand why older generations speak so fondly for the sport America's youth has abandoned for football and basketball.
The NL wild card race is a traffic jam that would put downtown Manhattan to shame.
Eight teams are separated by a mere 6.5 games (as of Friday afternoon) for the final playoff spot in the league without the designated hitter.
Philadelphia is leading Florida by a mere half game, and the que behind the two squads is coming up fast.
Arizona is two games out; St. Louis and Houston, which are tied for the lead in the Central, trail by 2.5 games; and Chicago is trying to prove the axiom of Cubs standing for "Completely Useless By September" wrong, trailing the wild card berth by three games.
This is just great fun.
Philadelphia and Florida would have had no hope of the playoffs before the wild card, thanks to the Atlanta Braves' dominance in the NL East, which may as well be called the Braves' Division by now.
Atlanta holds a 12-game vice grip on the East, and the squad from Georgia doesn't appear to be slipping any time soon.
But thanks to the wild card, the Phillies' and Marlins' games are still fun to watch because the two teams aren't just playing for pride. The squads are battling for the playoffs.
The Astros, Cardinals and the Cubs are even more fun because these three teams aren't just aiming for the wild card, but they all have a good shot at winning the wacky NL Central.
Houston and St. Louis had a mere half-game advantage over the Cubs as of Friday, leaving the Central wide open.
The first line in Selig's biography may be, "strike canceled 1994 World Series under Larry Bud' Selig's watch," but let's not forget, he did give us the wild card.
Anything that gives a sports pundit cause to credit Selig has to be one of the best innovations in sports.