DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays remain cautiously optimistic that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association will announce in the very near future that an extra Wild Card team will be added to each league this season.
Talks between the two sides were ongoing, but no immediate announcement was planned as of Thursday afternoon. That could change soon, as a deal needs to get done in order to finalize the 2012 postseason schedule.
"If we were to include it, it's something that's definitely going to help teams like ours being on the bubble, and potentially, with this division being as strong as it is, we could be in third place with a better record than the winner of another division," Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista said. "That certainly could be a possibility. I don't know if it's ever happened, and [the extra wild card] gives a team like ours, with the possibility of being in that position, a way to sneak through.
"It definitely increases everybody's chances, but we feel better about it because it is going to be a better chance."
Initial plans indicate that the two Wild Card teams would play a one-game playoff to see which team advances through to the American League Division Series.
That would provide an extra incentive for teams to win the division outright to avoid playing in a single-elimination game. But it's also an element that is mostly overlooked by the Blue Jays, who appear more than happy about the latest development and just want to experience the postseason for the first time since 1993.
"I think first step first, get in and then anything can happen," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Some people might say, well it's a one-game playoff, but I think anybody will sign up right now to play one extra game rather than go home.
"You're talking about increased opportunity, so I think that genuine feeling might be around every clubhouse for teams that have been on the outside looking in, particularly in late September and October."
A quick look at the history books indicates the extra Wild Card wouldn't have resulted in much of a difference for the Blue Jays in recent seasons, but could have gotten the club into the postseason in 1998. That year, Tim Johnson's squad posted 88 wins, but finished four games back of the Red Sox for the only Wild Card.
The Blue Jays would have fallen three games short of the White Sox for the second Wild Card in 2006 and by three games to the Yankees in 2008.
"I think it's great for baseball and hopefully it comes to play this year," Farrell said. "I just think any time you increase opportunity and potential late in the season, it's going to keep the divisional races and league races deep into the [weeks] of September. Hopefully, we're in the mix to land one of those five spots."