The postseason officially begins today. Well, it properly begins today. With last night’s thrilling walk-off win, the Dodgers officially survived their worst nightmare and also inspired some to revisit the Wild Card system. Let’s talk about it for a second.
In his piece for Bleacher Report, Zach Rymer lamented the current system.
In the event that the Dodgers lose to the Cardinals, not everyone will weep for them. The story will rightfully be that the reigning World Series champions had their shot and missed it. For the moment, though, it is justifiable to call out the Dodgers’ do-or-die fate for what it is: an injustice that underscores the need for MLB to reconsider its playoff format.
I understand the frustration and agree. The Dodgers were a full 16 games better than the Cardinals. We all knew when the Wild Card Game was implemented that it was a fundamentally unfair way to determine the 4th best team in each league.
Baseball is a sport of attrition. In football, the team that is bigger, faster, and stronger will win more often than not. In basketball, the team that is bigger, faster, and more skilled will win more often than not. In baseball, though, a 1998 Tigers that finished 65-97 can win four of their first five games against a 1998 Yankees team that would win 114 games and go on to win the World Series.
The best team doesn’t always win, which is why we need 162 games to determine which teams are the best. If we put April’s best teams in the playoffs, the Rays, Astros, Yankees, and Braves would have all missed out while the Royals would be preparing to play the Athletics at Kauffman Stadium tonight.
With that said, we toss the baby out with the bathwater because of an outlier. A wild card team being 16-games better than its wild card opponent has never happened before. In fact, prior to this year, the gap had never been larger than six games. In 10 of the 18 Wild Card games to date, WC1 has been better than WC2 by one game or fewer, with five of those being ties.
And more importantly, the Wild Card Game is great for a sport that has repeatedly put its foot in its own mouth. The Wild Card Game is a thrilling game because it violates baseball’s norms. We know it’s an unfair way to find the best team. But dang it if it isn’t the most exciting thing in the sport aside from a Game 7. And compared to the other major sports, it actually incentivizes teams to win the division. Where there is little to no incentive in the NBA and a decreasing incentive in the NFL with one fewer bye week at stake, it’s hard to say that the looming Wild Card Game didn’t make the battle for the NL West that much better.
That’s not to say that either team would have conceded the division prior to 2012, but both teams were forced to keep their foot on the gas pedal because they knew what was coming. And while the Dodgers drew the short shaw, we shouldn’t neglect that the Giants prize for winning the division was getting to play a 106-win team in the NLDS.
My proposal is *simple: Keep the Wild Card Game, with the condition that both teams are within 3-games of each other. What made last night unjust is that one team was clearly better than the other. But when both teams are more or less equal, let them fight.
*I say it’s simple without having done any research or giving any thought to the logistical problems this could cause, but I digress.
With that said, we have two postseason games today. Lance Lynn and the White Sox travel to Houston to take on Lance McCullers Jr and the Astros at 3:07 PM CDT. McCullers is best known for being openly mocked by Kendrys Morales after hitting a home run in the 2015 ALDS. And the Astros are best known for cheating and losing the 2015 ALDS to the Royals in epic fashion.
Here are your lineups:
Next, we have Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox taking on Shane McClanahan and the fighting Tampa Bay Shanes.
Teams whose first two playoff starters had the same first name:— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) October 5, 2021
1945 Cubs - Hank Borowy and Wyse
1948 Indians - Bob Feller and Lemon
2010 Phillies - Roy Halladay and Oswalt
2021 Rays - Shane McLanahan and Baz https://t.co/haF53tKWrW
We’ll update the thread when those lineups are announced. Happy postseason day!
Update: Here are your lineups for game #2.