A few years ago I was in a bar and got into a fight with a semi-regular (which I didn’t care much about) about which sport has the best postseason. He was a true #PleaseLikeMySport hockey fan and I felt (and still do) feel that the MLB playoffs surpassed the NHL playoffs as the most fun. Maybe I was still influenced by the cubs who occasionally participated and will feel different now. Maybe I wanted to piss off the kind of obtuse hockey fan I’ve hated for a long time. Little of Column A, little of Column B…
Sure, the wild card coin flip game is silly and should be at least two out of three. But at least it makes winning the division worth something, which only the NFL has right now. And yes, divisions themselves might be stupid, but that’s another discussion. As long as we have them, and as long as the teams within them play roughly the same schedule, they should only be measured against each other. It’s not perfect, but it’s closer than people believe.
like me wrote last night, this will probably be it for the current format. Last year, owners showed a hunger for extended playoffs as the networks pay more money for more playoffs. They will want more of it. The players took a stance for this year, knowing that more playoff spots mean: less incentive to put down a good team instead of a mediocre team, meaning less money for free agents, and then less money trickling down for each player. But how hard can they hold out when the CBA negotiations get really ugly? They will have to trade it for something. Unless we get a whole year lockout or more, which would likely cause the MLBPA to nod anyway.
What baseball really should be doing is breaking down the regular season and not just expanding the number of teams in the playoffs, but the games. Best of nine or eleven, and play every day. Make playoff baseball more like regular season baseball, with regarding how teams can actually deploy their rosters. But I’m not going to sit there waiting for a hot stove.
There will be plenty of time to discuss that during the hot stove winter. Maybe even into the spring, when the lockout that seems inevitable goes so far.
For now, it’s one last chance to enjoy this kind of drama. A first-ever Dodgers-Giants playoff series is in the offing unless the Cardinals’ Devil Magic takes down the game’s T-rex, the Dodgers, which may be the only time Cardinals’ Devil Magic is widely appreciated around baseball.
Another Rays-Yankees dance also has a chance, filled with the stories of the rich versus the poor that don’t really apply, but make for a good copy. Astros-White Sox – a 2005 World Series rematch (when Houston was in the NL kids) – has been confirmed for so many weeks that most of us have forgotten it’s almost too good a series to be the Division Series and not the Championship Series. The pitching of the Brewers vs. the Braves lineup, even without Ronald Acuna Jr., is secretly intriguing.
Regardless, the MLB playoffs still offer the most bang for your buck. Yes, the games take too long, but I don’t have much else to do. And when you get invested, you don’t tend to notice how long the games last. Nothing builds suspense quite like post-season baseball, while you wait for the next pitch that could turn your guts into mush. And it’s every night, at least until the World Series. There aren’t many foregone conclusions like you get in the early rounds of the NBA. Games don’t end up looking the same as they often do in the NHL. The moments stand out a bit more. Betts’ catch and run last year. The outrageous win for the Rays. All those Astros home runs. Daniel Hudson shoots off his glove in the distance at the latter. Howie Kendrick’s habit of series-winning home runs. They roll right onto the video reel in our minds.
The fear can wait. Let’s enjoy everything we have for the next month.