An easy solution: More MLB playoff games!

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  • Oakland Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija, left, and other teammates embrace starting pitcher Sonny Gray after the final out in their wild card-clinching 4-0 win against the Texas Rangers on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

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By Michal Dwojak, Assistant sports editor

The hunt for October is the most grueling playoff race in professional sports.

Major league teams play 162 games during a season just for a chance to win their league’s pennant and compete for the Commissioner’s Trophy. There’s a reason why teams douse themselves and locker rooms with champagne after clinching a playoff berth. After six months, it’s time for October, and it’s time for the playoffs.

This picture illustrates why the one-game Wild Card playoff is the worst series, if you can call it that, in all of sports. A team’s long journey to October could end in one game. It could be ended by an error or a home run. One game can ruin a season.

In 2012, Commissioner Bud Selig announced that there would be an additional wild card team in each league. In the new format, both wild card teams in each league would play in a one-game series. That’s it. A team that could’ve clinched the wild card weeks before the end of a season could lose to a team that made the playoffs on the last day of the season.

The extra wild card team was added to create more interest during September. I agree with this. The second wild card spot adds an opportunity for two more teams and creates hope for countless fans. Although the second spot didn’t help my White Sox’ hope of making the playoffs (a seventh wild card spot wouldn’t create hope for them), it does create hope for teams that haven’t made the playoffs for a long time, just like the Royals.

Now, adding a second wild card spot creates buzz. I’m fine with that. But why is there only a one-game series? Some might argue that it creates an atmosphere like none other. Sure, I guess.

Game 163 in 2008 between the Twins and the White Sox, the “Blackout Game,” was one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. But that wasn’t a playoff series. That was a game for the right to enter the playoffs. Neither team had earned anything yet; there was still one game to play.

Others will point to the NFL and other soccer leagues where each playoff game is one and done. If all of the MLB postseason was like that, then maybe that group would have an argument. But the rest of the playoffs have five- and seven-game series; it should be consistent for all teams involved.

Teams compete for 162 games for a spot in the playoffs. A team might end its playoff drought, but is it really satisfying if that team loses the one-game wild card?

The 2013 Pirates won one of the wild card spots and ended a 21-year playoff drought. Although the team won the game, what if the Pirates had lost the one-game playoff? How would that be fair to Pirates’ fans that waited so long for October to be meaningful again?

The Royals finally made the playoffs this year after being the laughing stock of the AL Central for so many years — ending a 28-year playoff drought. Except the Royals may not have much to celebrate, with having to play a one-game series to decide their playoff fate. 

The answer to this problem is simple. Both wild card teams can compete in a three-game series to decide who moves on in the playoffs. The series will be short enough where it won’t drag the postseason much longer into November. It can be played in three or four games, that way it won’t affect the teams that don’t play that much, even creating a nice break for those who finished with a better record.

The three-game series will also be profitable for teams and the MLB. More games mean more revenue from TV rights, ticket sales and, of course, beer sales. That alone should’ve been the reason why the MLB should jump on this three-game series.

The MLB had the right idea when it decided to add the extra teams into the battle for the Fall Classic. But it messed up with the one-game playoff, something that can be solved with two more games.

Michal is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @mdwojak94.