The new system will include three division winners from each league and then the two teams with the best record in each league will play a one game playoff to determine who moves on to the LDS. It is a way to both expand the playoffs, more money for baseball, and punish wild-card winners who previously had no punishment compared to division winners.
This obviously puts a huge importance on winning the division because winning the wild-card means that an entire season can be taken down in one game. This is much different than in recent years where winning the wild-card was essentially the same as winning the division and it will avoid situations like we saw in 2010 where the Yankees tanked the division in order to face a weaker opponent in the ALDS.
It’s going to hit home right away as the both the Red Sox and the Yankees will not have a clear path to the playoffs. It’ll mean that when both teams are on their way to 95-100 win seasons September baseball will mean something again. We won’t have to wait until October to watch meaningful baseball.
It extends beyond that of course. The Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays will all now have a better chance of actually beating the Yankees and Red Sox. And in every division, not just the AL East, it will increase competitiveness as that extra wild-card spot will guarantee nothing for good teams and will give a chance of hope to a team right on the boarderline of winning.