If there was anything good that came out of the 1981 player’s strike it was the league division series.
That year was the first time the MLB postseason featured eight teams (four from each league) and an additional round of playoffs instead of the customary four teams (two from each league) and just the league championship series.
The American League Division Series was implemented in 1981 because that aforementioned player’s strike cut the season into two halves. Major League Baseball decided that the division leaders when the season was suspended by the strike should face the division leaders at the end of the season.
The resulting American League Division Series saw the inclusion of the Kansas City Royals. It was the first time a team had ever made the MLB playoffs with a losing record.
The ALDS returned on a permanent basis in 1994. In a bit of irony, the playoffs were cancelled that year due to another player’s strike so there was no ALDS… or ALCS… of World Series.
The following year, the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees gave baseball fans a classic ALDS. The contest was settled in the 11th inning of the deciding game when Edgar Martinez’s clutch double dramatically scored Ken Griffey, Jr. from first base.
The American League Division Series is a best-of-five affair. The schedule has undergone several changes over the years but its current format is 2-2-1.
The four teams involved in the American League Division Series are the three division winners and a wild card team.
Since 2012, two teams qualify for the postseason as wild cards. These two teams clash in a winner-take-all wild card game with the victors advancing to the American League Division Series.
The advancing wild card team faces the division winner with the best record even if the teams are in the same division.
Major League Baseball used to prevent teams from the same division playing one another in the ALDS but they eliminated that provision in 2012.
Regardless of the wild card team’s win-loss record, they can never have home field advantage in the ALDS (or the rest of the playoffs for that matter).