It is fairly tantalizing to consider this in retrospect- if you could simply move the future extra playoff spot back into 2011, and keep Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez going forward forward, the resulting alchemy would mean the Mets could find themselves in a pseudo-playoff race as we speak.
But absent a time machine, it means something very different, I think. Take a look at the last ten years to get a sense of what I mean.
Year # of wins, Wild Card # of wins, Second Wild Card
2010 91, Atlanta 90, San Diego
2009 92, Colorado 88, San Francisco
2008 90, Milwaukee 89, New York
2007 89, Colorado 89, San Diego (Colorado actually at 90 after playoff, but with two spots, both get in- Mets sixth in NL at 88)
2006 88, Los Angeles 85, Philadelphia
2005 89, Houston 88, Philadelphia
2004 92, Houston 91, San Francisco
2003 91, Florida 87, Houston
2002 95, San Francisco 92, Los Angeles
2001 93, St. Louis 90, San Francisco
What do we see here? Over the past ten years, the wild card has averaged 91 wins. Had the second wild card existed, that team would have averaged 88.9 wins per game- effectively, 89 wins.
Had the average fifth playoff team averaged more in the neighborhood of say, 82-84 wins, that could change the nature of building a baseball team. After all, you’d be talking about a fundamentally different goal. With the dice-roll nature of the playoffs, simply creating a consistently mediocre team that can back into the playoffs and get some postseason revenue regularly would make some sense.
But building a team geared to win a consistent 89 games is pretty much the same thing as creating one geared to win a consistent 91 games. And for what it’s worth, this year’s Mets are on pace to win 80.4 games. Even if they’d kept Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez, it is hard to imagine they’d have been good enough to contend for that mythical fifth wild card spot. More importantly, building a team like the 2011 Mets- filled with dead money, bad contracts, and a whole lot of hope- isn’t a sustainable model, even in a new, more inclusive playoff system.