The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves took care of the collapse. The Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals took care of the comebacks.
All in all, this crazy night felt like the first round of the NCAA tournament - that first Thursday or Friday. Full of games teeming with do-or-die implications. Full of breathtaking moments, heartbreaking for one set of fans and devastating for the other side.
When all was said and done, we saw an easy victory (Cardinals) followed by an in-game collapse (Braves) that completed a month-long collapse. Then we saw the wildest three minutes we can remember. They left the Red Sox walking off the field stunned and in a daze, and the Baltimore Orioles walking off like World Series champions. They left the Rays walking off with a playoff spot after the sixth walkoff home run to clinch a postseason berth in baseball history by Evan Longoria.
And none of it could have happened a year from now.
According to a report from the New York Post on Sept. 24, a new collective bargaining agreement being worked out by Major League Baseball and the players' union includes a provision to include a fifth wild card team in each league. The two teams would face each other in a winner-takes-all, one-game playoff to determine which team gets into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
The plan could affect next season and will definitely be in effect for the 2013 season, according to the report.
But the plan would also stop nights like Wednesday, the frenetic finish to this 2011 season. Would more wild cards mean more revenue for teams? Sure. More money for the television rights to air those one-game playoffs? Definitely.
But it would take away the beauty of nights like Wednesday. On Wednesday, baseball was at its purest in an era where little in the sport remains pure.
One-hundred-sixty-two games. Through the separation in races throughout June, July and August as well as the gap closing in September, 161 games were not enough to decide the race. That came down to Game No. 162 in both wild card chases.
And it was spectacular because of its purity. For example, under the proposed new system, there would be one-game playoffs between the Red Sox and Rays as well as the Cardinals and Braves. Doesn't matter how big or small the gap. The Red Sox could have won the American League wild card by 12 games over the next closest competitor, but it still would come down to a faulty one-game playoff during which anything can happen.
The beauty of Wednesday's four de-facto playoff games were the circumstances that led up to them. The stakes were so high because of the rest of the season had produced the best night baseball remembers in a long time.
You implement a one-game playoff, and you risk losing some meaning to the 162 games preceding that play-in game.