We continue our look at the new collective bargaining agreement with the changes baseball is making to the format of its leagues and playoffs. If you missed it, I covered free agent compensation, and Rob got started on the new draft cap.
A second wild card team will be added to the postseason in 2013. There's still a chance that the second wild card will be included in the 2012 season, but a decision on that will be made by March 1, 2012. As anticipated earlier in the year, the wild card teams will play each other in a one-game playoff to decide who advances to the division series.
In addition, the Houston Astros will join the American League West in 2013, which means each league will three five-team divisions. As a result, interleague play will occur throughout the regular season.
Finally, teams will be allowed an active roster of 26 players for some doubleheaders.
Impact on the Mets
Making the postseason will obviously be less of a challenge than it was before, but a one-game playoff is an awfully risky situation. Winning the division will certainly be more important in the near future than it has been since the inception of the wild card.
On the upside, it'll be possible to get into an actual playoff series if two other teams in the division finish ahead of the Mets. That would have been the case in the American League East this year had the new system been in place, with the Red Sox and Rays playing each other to determine who made the division series. If the Mets end up winning the first wild card, I won't hate the new system more than I would love it if they finish the season as the second wild card.
As for interleague play, I'm sure the Mets will continue to play the Yankees six times per year, once in Queens and once in the Bronx on weekends in the prime months of the season. They'll also miss out on facing the Astros six times per year, but they're probably not going to be among the worst teams in baseball forever.
The fact that games against American League teams will be mixed in throughout the rest of the year doesn't bother me all that much, but it'll seem odd if the Mets are in a tight playoff race one year and turn out to be the interleague team for the last series of the season, battling the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to make the playoffs.
When it comes to roster expansion for a doubleheader, the Mets will benefit if they need a spot-starter or have an injured-but-active player on their bench, but I'm having a hard time envisioning how any one team would have an advantage because of the rule. Minor league depth will still be important, and now it will occasionally be a little bit easier to use.