The arrangement has been in the works since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and was intended to dovetail with the league realignment. The new slot essentially creates another (very short) playoff round, in which the two Wild Card teams battle for our amusement in a single-game death match. The winner goes on to face the highest-seeded division champion, as is already the case for the Wild Card team.
As far as I can tell, the changes are intended to create more of a drive for teams to win their division, and also to increase late-season interest for teams who, in the past, would not have had a shot at the playoffs. But a single-game elimination seems awfully anticlimactic.
I’m fine with what is, essentially, a crap-shoot of a postseason. If we wanted to award the championship to the team with the best record, we could do so at the end of the regular season. I like that a team can come from behind and luck into a World Series win if all the pieces fall into place.
But baseball is so chance-driven, and so few things are ever decided by a single game, that inserting a Sudden Death Round feels monumentally pointless. It seems antithetical to the nature of the sport, which has always been more of a marathon than a sprint. Still, resistance to change is as traditional in baseball as the seventh-inning stretch, so I expect I’ll learn to appreciate it eventually.
(Probably when the Cubs finally luck into that fifth postseason berth. Hey, a healthy dose of self-interest can cure a lot of ills.)