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Baseball's new playoff format could raise some issues

Baseball's new playoff formula, which added a second wild card team in each league, is drawing rave reviews.

The battle for the last playoff spot went down to the next to last day of the season with the St. Louis Cardinals becoming the 10th and final team to make the postseason when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Tuesday night.

Over in the American League, two division champions weren't decided until the regular season's final night, with Oakland and Texas battling head-to-head for the AL West title and the New York Yankees trying to hold off Baltimore in the AL East.

Critics might point out, with those four teams all bunched together, we'd have the same excitement even under the old system wherein only one wild card made it to the playoffs.

But the real controversy will start Friday when two teams will be eliminated in one-game playoffs. And if one of those teams is the Braves, the Atlanta media and fans will go bonkers.

Here's why:

The Braves, with 94 victories, will play the Cardinals, who have six fewer wins. A year ago, with the same records, Atlanta would have qualified for the postseason and the Cards would be headed home.

With the game at Turner Field and the hottest pitcher in baseball, Kris Medlen starting Friday, the Braves should prevail. But the Cardinals, who came out of the wild card and won the World Series last year, are a dangerous team.

Three weeks ago, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones anticipated this situation when he commented on just such a scenario.

"I think it is stupid," he said, "it is too much of a crap shoot. A bad umpire's call, a fluke play can turn around the whole game."

Jones, who in his final season has been one of the keys to Atlanta's success, went on to say that he would be "OK" with a best-of-three playoff.

Jones is correct, and logically that makes sense. The problem is a three-game wild card playoff would lengthen the postseason, which already calls for the seventh game of the World Series to be played Nov. 1.

That could be solved by shortening the regular season. But that would mean a loss of revenue and commissioner Bud Selig is never going to let that happen.

When it comes to logic or money, you know what Uncle Bud is going to choose. That's why the owners pay him $23 million a year.

There is another little problem lurking, with a home-field advantage twist.

In the past, the five-game division playoffs were scheduled with two open dates. Division winners got the first two games and the fifth game, if necessary, at home.

This year, in order to eliminate one of the open dates, the wild card gets the first two games at home and the division winner the next three in its ballpark.

If a wild card team wins those first two games at home and it leads to a victory in that division series, look for a revision in 2013, especially if the TV idols -- the Yankees -- are involved.

Shorter season? They'll play the World Series during Thanksgiving week before that happens.