The Cover 4.com presents you with the MLB Playoffs:One and Done! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour
The Wild in the WIldCard
The purpose of the playoffs is to provide a forum to establish the best team of the best teams over a course of a year. As in most sports, there is a regular season to weed out the poor teams and isolate the good teams. In football, they play once a week in a 16 game season. In the NBA, they play three or four times a week in an 82 game season. In baseball, teams play six or seven times a week in a 162 game season. Why do they play that many games? Maybe it is less grueling on the body so they can afford to play almost every day, unlike basketball and especially football. So, if that many games are laid out to determine the best teams over such a large sample size, you would think baseball would have the largest and longest size for their playoffs amongst the main sports. Right? Nope. It’s laughable. And for the Rangers, Reds, and the Indians, they receive the short end of the stick.
With baseball’s new Wild Card format, they have baseball teams competing in a one, yes I repeat, ONE game playoff to determine who moves on and who is gone. After six long moths of regular season games traveling around the country, they the new format dictates that their postseason fate is determined by one game. Last time I checked my math, this ratio of regular season games to playoff games here is preposterous, and it has me burning more than a summer in Death Valley.
Baseball, and Bud Selig especially, thought they would make baseball more meaningful in September by adding an extra playoff spot for a competing team. Instead of three division winners and a wildcard in each league, the new format as of last season includes the three division winners and two wildcard spots. The two wildcard teams however, who have experienced all the twists and turns of a 162 game season, then compete in one solitary game to determine who will play the division winner with the best record in baseball as the true wildcard representative. Give me a break! And I’m not talking about a Kit Kat. How can baseball think this is fair? No wonder Bud Selig recently announced his retirement at the end of next season. No wonder the ratings are down.
In a sport where one pitcher can determine the whole outcome of a game, to have one sudden death game be played is ludicrous. Baseball has the least amount of teams make the playoffs compared to hockey, basketball, and football. How can they truly justify the existence of such a short element in their post-season. A broken clock is right twice a day, but it does not mean that this is the best clock in a clock store. This is the World Series we are talking about, not March Madness, or a clock store.
In basketball, they have 16 teams make the playoffs and every series is best 4 out of 7. Even hockey partakes in this same format. They play half the games baseball does. And in basketball, sure winning game 1 is a good start to winning a series, but not every team that wins game 1 wins the series. This year and last year’s NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Miami Heat lost game 1 both times before moving on to win the series. If it was the baseball wildcard playoff, LeBron would still be known as the “Ringless King.” The reason this does not happen in basketball is because in a competitive sport where parody exists everywhere, the better team is determined over a larger sample sizes. It is not football, and you cannot fairly outline a system where one game determines who wins and goes home after such a long quantitative regular season.
NASCAR races do not determine the winner after 5 laps. Tennis matches do not play best 3 out of 5 games in a set to see who wins the whole match. Majors in Golf are not determined by two round tournaments or 9 hole matches. Soccer matches do not play twenty-minute games in the World Cup. I can go on and one with examples to illustrate my point, but it will not change the format that exists in baseball. Otherwise, this article would have only been one paragraph long.
Going into the final weekend of the regular season, the National League Wildcard matchup was clear-cut and the American League Wildcard reminded me of the BCS System. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds had an exciting battle throughout the final months of the season. The Cardinals, class personified, took the NL Central Crown and the Reds and Pirates battled off for the Wild Card Spot. The Pirates with the better record held the home field and predictably defended their turf, winning 6-2 the re-emerging of Francisco Liriano. Pittsburgh postseason baseball has not taken place since 1992, and this victory against the Reds was a fantastic emotional watch. However, if I am a Reds advocate, I played 82 home games during the regular season to prepare me for the playoffs, qualified for the playoffs, and I do not get even one home playoff game? This is blatantly out of bounds, unnecessary, and insulting. Make it two out of three. Do something Bud. Even the WNBA plays two out of three throughout the playoffs. You cannot justify playing that many regular season games to only have one game determine a team’s fate. Not to this baseball fan. Sorry Reds fans, looks like you had to walk the plank.
In the American League, the Wild Card Playoff berths resembled a hybrid of a Presidential Election Race and the BCS Bowl system. Chaotic, confusing, and most importantly, unfair. If two teams are supposed to play in a one-game playoff for the final wildcard spot, what happens when there is a tie for these final two spots? Well, I guess you can say baseball got its wish. The Rangers and the Rays tied for the second Wild Card spot, while the Indians finished first for the top spot. There were ten different cluttered scenarios that could have happened on the final day of the season. Hypothetically if this happens; then this is the result. In the end, there was a one-game playoff for the one-game playoff, furthering the ridiculousness of this new system.
The Tampa Bay Rays threw their ace David Price against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. And the Rangers pitcher was Yu Darvish, their best pitcher, naturally right? No, incorrect. Martin Perez who? Why, because Yu pitched on the final day of the season to secure their playoff “berth.” Baseball features a dynamic where a pitcher can impact a game more than any player on the field. This is why they typically pitch once every five games. The format did not even allow a team to have their best pitcher throw one pitch. How can this format truly determine the best team? It is very unfair and cruel. Sorry Rangers, you just got stung. By the Rays and more importantly, baseball’s misconception of balance. And what the playoffs represent.
The Rays got to throw their ace against the Rangers and they won. Then they advanced to the real wildcard playoff against the Indians, where they showcased Alex Cobb. Their number two starter Matt Moore could not pitch because he pitched on the final day of the regular season, but is scheduled to start Game 1 against the Red Sox on Friday in the ALDS. And the Indians were unable to throw their hottest pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. They had to pitch rookie Danny Salazar. He gave up a couple runs, but the story of the game was that the Indians stranded baserunners left and right. The Indians outhit the Rays but lost 4-0. In a long series, they could have won 4-1 and outhit them every game. We will never know. Neither will the Indians nor their fans. Cleveland sports will have to continue to suffer because of this stupid format. One off-night after a ten game winning streak sends a team home with no second, third or fourth chance.
In the end, the best team is determined in the League Championship Series and World Series. Why? Because it is a best-out-of-seven series. All pitchers can be used, and all assets and liabilities can be used and exposed. But in getting to these final four teams, injustice is incurred along the way. Basketball playoffs take almost two months, where baseball’s takes place in one month, and Baseball plays twice as many games in the regular season. Now I’m no math teacher, but something does not add up. Here is a quick solution: Cut out the final month of the regular season and make the playoffs longer. Simple, make it a 130 game season and make more playoff games.
C’mon baseball! Show us you can adapt. Football adopted its new overtime system because its previous format created a scenario where one team potentially did not get a fair chance. They realized a problem existed and rectified it. Baseball is moving slowly with updates in instant replay because baseball is America’s pastime. Change is hard for them, and the changes they do make are also unfair. They have the All-Star Game winner’s league get home-field advantage in the World Series. There are so many elements of this sport that I love that are broken. Baseball needs to strongly look at itself in the mirror, put on the eye black, and re-evaluate its playoff system, especially the Wild Card format. They are not only robbing the teams, but the fans as well. We all want you to succeed baseball, but you are making it very hard on yourself.
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Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4