Joe Girardi insists his New York Yankees were trying to win the AL East a year ago, even if it didn’t look like it.

The Yankees lost eight of their last 11 as Girardi rested veterans and used his bullpen like he was managing Grapefruit League games.

As a result, they slipped from first to second and faced the Minnesota Twins in the first playoff round rather than Cliff Lee and the Rangers

“Yeah, we were trying to win,” Girardi said. “I want to play as many games as I can (at Yankee Stadium) if we are fortunate enough to get to the playoffs. That’s the bottom line. Our team is built for this park, so why wouldn’t we want to win our division?”

Because he asked, one reason is you probably wouldn’t want to face Justin Verlander twice in a best-of-five series. That’s the fate looming for whoever wins the AL East this season. The wild-card team probably will play the Rangers, who have second-year starter C.J. Wilson as their No. 1 starter.

Are you actually better off to finish second and avoid Verlander? That’s a popular subject of conversation.

But beginning in 2012, such a question will be moot.

Barring an unexpected reversal, MLB is going to adopt the one-game, instant-elimination scenario television favors when it adds two wild-card teams.

Nothing is set, and Commissioner Bud Selig declined to address the situation Friday. But it has become clear to those who speak to him regularly that he’s buying into the idea that baseball needs to do more to reward teams that win their divisions.

He didn’t need to be told the ratings potential for a win-or-go-home game involving the Yankees or Red Sox is huge.

The tipping point for Selig in these discussions could be a third factor — that adding a one-game playoff instead of a best-of-three series would eliminate unwanted time off for the other playoff teams, theoretically teams superior to those involved in the wild-card playoff.

The one-game playoff is in keeping with a push by Selig and the players’ union to tighten the postseason format.

The current eight-team, three-tier format has worked well, but over time is being revealed as too much of an equalizer between 100-victory division champs and 88-victory wild cards. This is a good time to change, as the upcoming September does not figure to be an especially exciting time.

The month could start with 11 teams, or possibly even fewer, within five games of the eight playoff spots. The only real races are in the NL West and AL Central, with most of the drama centered on whether the pitching-heavy Giants get a chance to defend their World Series championship.

Add a second wild card in each league and suddenly life feels a lot different for five teams currently on the outside looking in, including the geographically challenged Rays and Blue Jays. And the Yankees-Red Sox race would add the sense of urgency that is missing.

Look for MLB to go to the one-game playoff, with that game set two days after the end of the regular season. The division series would open the following day, with the surviving wild card at a disadvantage against the winningest team in the league. The writing’s on the wall on this one.