The Expanded Playoffs or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the wild card

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I’ve been trying to process yesterday’s announcement — which we knew was coming for a long time — that a playoff team will be added in each league, possibly as soon as next season.  I’ve been against the idea for some time and, from a purely baseball perspective, I still don’t like it.  But I can’t bring myself to muster any outrage. All I can do is nod and say “Oh well. Now let’s do this new thing.”

To be clear, I do think that adding a playoff team and making a one-game playoff between the wild card winners every year is jarring and gimmicky.  It’s the polar opposite to everything a long 162-game schedule represents. It’s akin to having marathon runners stop at 26.1 miles and then decide the winner with a double-dutch competition.

But if there is any lesson to be learned from the past few years which saw multiple one-game playoffs and that bananas last night of this season, it’s OK to just go nuts sometimes. One of the things I’m learning as I get older is that not everything needs to be reconciled. You can live with some degree of sub-optimization and endure a little cognitive dissonance and the world will not end.  Yeah, that’s a potentially fatal realization for a person who’s supposed to offer sharp opinions about everything. I’ll try to make up for it when the Hall of Fame inductions are announced. But for now I’m kind of OK with it.

Besides, I am sort of cottoning to the notion that the one-game playoff — for all of its ills — does make winning the division more important. As it was, the wild card winner didn’t have much of a penalty to it. Now it does.  The fact that a 92-win wild card winner may fall victim to an 86-win wild card winner in one silly game isn’t ideal, but I don’t think the world will end either.

Ultimately, though, it makes little sense to argue against expanded playoffs from a “this will make for bad baseball” perspective.  That’s because we have to accept that this was not a bad baseball decision as such.  No one at Major League Baseball looked at this and said “yes, that will improve the game!”  It was totally about TV and hype and commercialism.  The ability to sell a winner-takes-all game with 100% certainty that it will, in fact, happen.  Even Bud Selig has admitted that baseball’s partners in the media had a lot to do with this.  He doesn’t truly believe this is an organic or wholly positive baseball development so I’m not going to waste my breath tearing such an erroneous position down.

It’s happening. It’s not ideal. But it’s not disastrous either.  We may even actually have a lot of fun with it.  So I think I’ll keep my powder dry for something else.

Giants, Cardinals reportedly have offers on the table for Giancarlo Stanton

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We’re entering what is typically one of the slowest news weeks in the baseball calendar. Occasionally some big free agents sign around now. For example, it was 20 years ago today Andres Galarraga signed with the Braves, and I still remember being in an airport on the way home to visit my parents when I heard the news. I’m an old man.

The biggest news that is likely to happen this offseason is Giancarlo Stanton being traded. That hasn’t happened yet, but here are the latest bits of news on that:

Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Cardinals have made a formal trade offer to the Marlins for Stanton. No word what they’re offering, but the clubs have been in discussion for some time and it has been reported that the Marlins are the most interested in doing a deal with St. Louis due to the prospects they could send to Miami. There is a sense, however, that Stanton would be hesitant to approve a trade to the Cardinals because he prefers to play on the West Coast;

The Giants play on the west coast, and over the weekend they were reported to be the “most aggressive team” in trade talks for Stanton at the moment. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Giants have likewise made an offer. Their farm system is nowhere near as stocked as that of the Cardinals, so it’s unclear whether they have the prospects to make Miami happy. They could, of course, eat a lot of Stanton’s $295 million contract to make up for that, of course, but (a) doing so would put them over the luxury tax; and (b) the Marlins no doubt want to spur a rebuild with a Stanton trade, so if they can’t get some blue chip prospects back in return, what’s the point?

UPDATE: Who knows if this is anywhere close to enough — I’m guessing not — but this is what the Giants reportedly have on the table:

Anyway, that’s where we are as we begin Thanksgiving week.