BRADENTON -- He may have not been on the active roster, but Clint Barmes got a taste of how special 2007 was for the Colorado Rockies.
Or, to be more specific, how the special the end of 2007 baseball season was.
The Rockies won 13 of their final 14 games, beat the San Diego Padres in a one-game playoff to win the wild card and then swept through the playoffs en route to the first World Series berth in franchise history.
Turns out those Rockies, managed by current Pittsburgh Pirates' skipper Clint Hurdle, were ahead of their time.
There will be two wild cards implemented begin
ning this year, and the scenario will unfold just like it did for those '07 Rockies -- wild-card winners will meet in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the Division Series.
"I like it a lot," said Barmes, now the Pittsburgh Pirates' shortstop. "I think it's going to be exciting to have a couple of extra teams that have a shot of going deep into the playoffs. We've already got one wild card, and you know how that's worked out in the past anyway.
"I think it's a great idea."
The idea is twofold. Putting another playoff berth up for grabs keeps more teams -- and their fans -- engaged late into the season.
And it also puts an added emphasis on winning your division. Other than homefield advantage, division champions had no clear advantage over wild-card teams since the three-tier postseason began in 1995.
Wild cards are guaranteed no more than the aforementioned one-game playoff, while division winners can start aligning their pitching rotations for the division series as soon as they clinch.
"The hot team in any professional sport usually has that momentum to keep it going," Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. "It'll be interesting to see ... because now you have this one-game playoff, and you'll have teams with a little bit of a break. Sometimes that's good for teams, sometimes that's not good."
A wild card has won the World Series five times since '95, including last year's St. Louis Cardinals. It happened three years in a row (2002-05), and the '02 Fall Classic was the first waged between two wild cards, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the San Francisco Giants.
"This is professional sports. This isn't high school, this isn't college, where the wild-card team who gets in is going to get stomped on," Walker said.
The Cardinals, as well as the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League, crafted furious comebacks to reach the postseason last year. The Rays became the first team to erase a nine-game deficit in September, a run they capped with a thrilling, come-from-behind win against the New York Yankees on the final day of the regular season.
Barmes' Rockies were in last place in the National League West and 6½ games out of first place with 14 games remaining before engineering their run. The advent of the wild card has discouraged teams from breaking up their rosters at the July 31 trade deadline, and the additional playoff spot may have a similar effect on even more teams.
"Just getting to the wild-card game was amazing in itself," Barmes said. "We had to win out for all of September it seemed like, and we did it. That was a lot of fun.
"It was a pretty special run."
The new wrinkle has met with some criticism, especially considering one game will decide a team's fate following a grueling 162-game season.
But come September, more teams will be in the hunt for a postseason spot. Consequently, so will their fans.
"I think it's good for baseball," Walker said. "I think it adds more competitiveness throughout the 16- and 14-team leagues, and it's giving more teams a chance that maybe played well for most of the year and slipped up a little in September.
"I don't know how it's going to work. But I'll be interested to see how it goes this year."