As much as it stung on Monday night, Cardinals veteran Lance Berkman wondered whether this was good for the game. After all, the new system introduced for 2012, with two Wild Card teams in each league playing one game for the right to advance to the Division Series, was meant in part to incentivize winning one's division.
"Absolutely, and that's how it should be," Berkman said. "I think it's an excellent move by Major League Baseball to incorporate that format, because it does put a lot of weight on winning your division."
And, in turn, being the Wild Card is something of a handicap. The Cardinals had to burn their top regular-season starter, Kyle Lohse, in the play-in game against the Braves.
"I think it's just a matter of having the right guys available," Berkman said. "The Wild Card team is going to have to have good pitching depth, because you're not going to be able to set your pitching rotation the way you will if you win your division. That could be a factor, but I don't think it's going to be prohibitive in keeping a Wild Card team out of the World Series."
In the first 17 years of the Wild Card era, which began in 1995, a Wild Card team made it to the World Series nine times, including in six straight seasons from 2002-07. Five Wild Card teams have won it all, including the 2011 Cardinals.
Now it is simply one step more challenging to get that far.
"If you don't win the division you are going to have a tough time making it," said Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright. "That's why they created [the second Wild Card]. It's good, though. I like having another team and city getting a chance to continue to play baseball. It's exciting. When you are the Wild Card it's like Game 7 in the first game [of the postseason]. You have a Game 7 for the play-in game, then we had a Game 5 and then another Game 7. That's three elimination games in less than three weeks."
The Cardinals won the first two before falling to the Giants in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Monday.