CLEVELAND -- A smirk began to creep across Indians manager Terry Francona's face as a reporter started asking about the second Wild Card spot on Friday afternoon. Francona was ready with a one-liner for his audience.
"I wish they would've added it a couple years ago," Francona said to a chorus of laughter.
Francona was, of course, referencing his 2011 Red Sox squad that spiraled out of control and out of the postseason picture that September, following which the manager lost his job. Flash forward to his current tenure with the Tribe, and his club sits within 2 1/2 games of the second Wild Card slot, which was added for the first time in 2012.
The Rays entered Friday holding the top Wild Card spot -- added to the postseason mix in 1994 when Major League Baseball shifted to its three-division alignment -- and the A's led the pack for the second Wild Card. Cleveland was next in the standings, followed by the Orioles (three games behind), Yankees (3 1/2) and Royals (seven).
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said the team is still focusing on the American League Central, which the Tigers led by five games over the Tribe entering Friday.
"It's so new, man. I don't even pay attention to it," Swisher said of the Wild Card. "I think you have to think division. That's what I do and I think that's how everybody in here thinks. If you kind of end up on that doorstep of the division, you're right there for the Wild Card. For us, though, we want that division."
Francona added that the additional Wild Card is definitely better for baseball fans.
"I think it's good," Francona said. "I don't know if there's anything that's ever going to be perfect, but I like the idea that more teams stay in it longer. It gets fans something to hang on to, even if a one-game playoff would be half-exciting, half-dreadful, because you play all year and then all of a sudden it's one game. But it's serving its purpose."