Thinking about Bobby Thomson reminds me of how bitter I am at Bud Selig for taking pennant races away. What happened in 1951 could not happen today. Could not. Since Selig killed pennant races by adding the Wild Card, it became impossible for two great teams to fight for a playoff spot; moreover, with three tiers of playoffs, even when two teams fight down to the final game it's 50/50 that the winner won't make it to the second round, and a longshot for that team to make it to the World Series.
Baseball is a business (among other things), and I'm not going to ask them to leave money on the table. They can sell three playoff rounds, so they're going to have three playoff rounds. Moreover, I can't blame them for wanting more teams staying alive farther into the season. The truth is that a lot of teams in the days of 16 teams, two leagues (not to mention 20 teams, two leagues) were playing in front of pretty much no one once their season was over in June. They didn't solve a phony problem with the three divisions plus a WC setup; they just chose the wrong solution.
One more time: Each league gets two divisions. The first place teams advance. The second place teams advance. The first round matches the division winners against the other division's second place teams, and gives the champs a large advantage...something like needing two games to advance while the other team needs three wins (I'd also give them the entire series at home, but the details aren't that important; the key is only that the advantage has to be sufficient that winning the division clearly matters...I'd probably want the first place team to win about 80% of the time). Then the winners advance to the LCS as equals: if an underdog manages to knock off a division winner in the first round, they have no further disadvantages going forward.
That's it. Promote the hell out of the last week of the season (Pennant Week!). Sell it to ESPN or TBS, putting at least one game on every day as long as the playoff slots are still up for grabs. Yes, a team such as the 1993 Giants (second place with 103 wins) gets screwed to some extent, because they probably won't beat the Phillies to advance...but that's OK: they get to try, up to that point they would be (as the 1993 Giants actually were) desperate to beat the Braves for the division title, because it would mean something again. Once more, Bobby Thomson -- and Bucky Dent -- are possible. Meanwhile, competition for playoff spots is once more restricted to division rivals, meaning that serious rivalries will build up over time, and the chances are much higher that teams competing for a spot will play each other over the final two weeks of the season, as Detroit and Toronto memorably did in 1987.
Now, it's true that in a year like 1993 in the NL West, the teams hanging around at the .500 mark in July and August will be in worse shape than they would in the current setup. That's a real cost, although it won't happen every year, and in the long run I tend to think it's good for MLB to encourage sub-500 teams to plan for the future, instead of hoping to get lucky and sneak into the WC. But the main thing is that baseball would return to taking advantage of its long season. Pennant races were great because they generated great stories -- as a Giants fan, I think of (among others) 1908, 1951, 1962, 1982, and 1993. I can't prove that these great stories are a big part of what made baseball fans love the game so much, but I do believe it's true, and I think it's a shame that it's gone. Especially since a fix is available. Sure wish they would do it.