With Major League Baseball expanding its postseason field to 12 teams and introducing the brand new American League and National League Wild Card Series, tiebreakers games, also known as ‘game 163,’ are a thing of the past.
Prior to 2022, if two teams were tied for the division lead, they would square off in a one-game, win-or-go-home, playoff for the right to advance to the postseason.
The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are currently entrenched in an epic battle for the National League East division title. The winner of Sunday night’s game will own the tiebreaker, having won the head-to-head series over the course of the season. If the two teams are tied after 162 games, the team that owns the tiebreaker will receive a bye from the National League Wild Card Series and advance directly to the National League Division Series. The team that is on the short-end of the tiebreaker will have to win a best-of-three Wild Card Series, in order to advance to the NLDS.
Under the old format, the club that owned the better head-to-head record would have homefield for game 163.
Game 163, no matter where it was played, would always capture a unique, playoff atmosphere. The weight of a 162-game season was on the shoulders of both teams with everything on the line.
Game 163, as well as the now deceased American League and National League Wild Card games, was essentially skipping ahead to game 7. It was everything that we loved about professional sports.
If the Braves and Mets tie, and it comes down to a tiebreaker, where’s the fun in that? Wouldn’t you rather see each team throw their ace in front of a crowd of 40,000 screaming fans, with a bye from round one of the playoffs on the line?
Teams play 162 games in a season, and fans will not remember most of them. But you know what they will remember? Game 163.
Talk to any Colorado Rockies fan and they will bring up their 2007 13-inning thriller in which their team won 9-8 over the San Diego Padres, securing their first-ever postseason berth.
Any Chicago White Sox fan would surely remember the ‘white-out’ of 2008, when the White Sox and Cubs made the playoffs in the same year for the first time since 1906.
Any Minnesota Twins fan would happily brag about walking-off the Detroit Tigers in the 12th to win the AL Central.
Any Mariners fan could tell you in vivid detail the thoughts and feelings they had, watching Randy Johnson run out to pitch in the 1995 AL West game 163 in the Kingdome, when the Mariners would clinch their first ever trip to the playoffs.
By getting rid of game 163, MLB is keeping itself from future iconic moments and games for organizations that will carry weight to fan bases forever. By nixing game 163, I fear we’re losing more than we will gain.
Major League Baseball should bring back game 163 in 2023, and never do away with it again.