To me, it’s silly to have a sport whose regular season revolves around teams playing three- or four-game series to see who gets the better of one another in such groupings … suddenly switch a one-game, winner-move-on scenario in both the National and American leagues once it comes down to the beginning of brass tacks season.
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
If we were talking about two teams having gone through 162 games and come out deadlocked, that’s one thing. Yeah, play a one-gamer to decide things so we can get going with the playoffs.
But, this, a one-game playoff for teams who earned the right to play in the postseason, it’s ludicrous. This isn’t the NFL where the entire season is comprised of one-game wars each week, and its postseason continues that format accordingly, just with heightened stakes.
Great, that works. In the NFL.
In MLB, it doesn’t. It’s silly. It goes against everything the sport has done for six months, and while the proponents for the wild-card game will suggest that only places more importance on it, the truth is it merely lessens the achievement of those who qualified for it.
Consider this: the NL Central this season produced the three best teams in the sport with division winner St. Louis, runner-up Pittsburgh and the third-place Cubs. Those three won 100, 98 and 97 games, respectively. Now, granted, the wild-card allowed the latter two to qualify for the postseason this season. Up until 1995, neither of those two would have received anything for their efforts aside from well wishes for the offseason.
In today’s day and age, though, they are playoff teams, and, make no mistake about it this season, worthy playoff teams.
Only, as you settle in and get ready for what you’re accustomed to seeing, a series to determine the better squad, the reality hits that, umm, that ain’t gonna happen. That it’s just gonna be a one-game opportunity. That you’re really not going to uncover which is the better team over the course of a few days, but, rather, who happens to win on this one particular evening, be it fabulous or just fortunate.
For me, once my senses absorbed that Jake Arrieta was pitching for Chicago at PNC Park, it was a no-brainer to scratch off the home-standing Pirates from the actual playoffs – which will begin with best-of-5 series in the AL Thursday and NL Friday.
Yeah, at some point you have to figure Arrieta’s run of dominance, which just happens to be the best in the history of the sport following an all-star game break, will yield a comeuppance or at least a hiccup. But you can’t count on it. Pittsburgh was dead and buried before the opening pitch Wednesday night – even with a 19-game winner of its own on the hill in Gerrit Cole.
Hey, I already know the Cubs – right now – are better than any team with Arrieta on the mound. As good and durable as he is, though, he ain’t going to pitch every game, and that’s kinda the whole point of having a series – to avoid the obvious advantage in a single affair, to delve deeper and find out which team is better, or performs better over a few games.
This was no opportunity for the Pirates. It made their regular season absolutely meaningless. Just as it did last year when they got bounced from the playoffs in the same game by eventual World Series champ San Francisco.
Full disclosure … I am not thrilled that the Buccos are gone, but I am thrilled that the Cubs are moving on. They’re a great story, a very good team with some serious talent in Arrieta, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant, and, well, their beleaguered, but loyal fan base could use a moment or two basking in the sun. But I’d rather the Cubs did so by proving themselves over the course of a series, where they really showed they were better than the Pirates – not just in a single-game, “we may not be better, but we drew the big straw in this one” scenario.
That’s just so NHL-ish, “puck bounces off a player’s butt for a goal” lucky to me. Sorry, but I’d rather leave the fluky stuff to that sport, not add it to MLB.
Frankly, over in the AL, the Yankees got their just desserts. They’d been leaking oil the entire second half of the season, with their core guys showing their advanced ages. But even there, they earned a postseason spot, and they deserved at least a series to determine whether or not they should continue instead of a one-game death sentence against Houston ace illusionist Dallas Kuechel and his ridiculous goatee.
At minimum, the Yankees deserved a best-of-3 opportunity. As did Pittsburgh.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com