It was also a judgment call, meaning no amount of instant replay could change it. Indeed, even after watching the video after the game, the umpires were unanimous in their opinion that the call was the right one.
Joe Torre, the former player and manager who now acts as MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said he was sorry the controversy overshadowed the first game under the new format. But Torre said he found the game exciting, and liked the idea of the sudden- death playoff.
Not surprisingly, losing manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't quite agree.
"Maybe they need to tweak the rules a little bit as you go forward," Gonzalez said. "But it was one game for both teams. So, that part was fair."
The best tweak would be to expand the wild-card elimination to a best-of-three series, and play all games on the home field of the team with the best record. That would provide an incentive for having the best regular-season record of the two wild-card teams and eliminate a travel day that would push the postseason further into November.
That doesn't guarantee the best team will win, but playing a minimum of two games takes some of the randomness out of it. Teams will play looser, managers will be able to set up their pitching staffs better, and umpires will have a few more games to get used to making calls down the outfield lines.
More importantly, fans won't have to live with the idea of an entire season being wiped out by a fluke play or a bad call.
It's a simple fix that will make September more competitive, and October even more interesting.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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