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.
We’ve got some potential craziness building in the American League Wild Card race with one day left in the regular season.
After dropping both halves of a doubleheader on Saturday in Baltimore, the Yankees are now just one game up for the first spot — hosting duties. Houston, currently in the second spot, won again Saturday in Arizona behind two Colby Rasmus homers and a very good start from Collin McHugh. Anaheim won Saturday in Arlington, Texas in maybe the wildest game of the year to stay one game back of the ‘Stros.
This also touches the still-undecided American League West, where the Rangers only have a one-game lead on the Astros and will face a fired-up Angels team on Sunday afternoon. By design, the start times for all these games that matter are the same: 3:05 p.m. ET. Only the Cardinals and Braves will play at a different time (due to Saturday’s rainout).
Buckle up, people. Get your popcorn ready. All that.
Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …
Yankees 2, Orioles 1 (Game 1)
Royals 5, Twins 1
Angels 11, Rangers 10
Nationals 3, Mets 1 (Game 1)
Rockies 2, Giants 3
Marlins 7, Phillies 6 (Game 1)
Blue Jays 3, Rays 4
Reds 3, Pirates 1
Yankees 3, Orioles 4 (Game 2)
Red Sox 0, Indians 2
Cubs 1, Brewers 0
Nationals 2, Mets 0 (Game 2)
Marlins 5, Phillies 2 (Game 2)
Astros 6, Diamondbacks 2
Padres 1, Dodgers 2
Athletics 7, Mariners 5 (13 innings)
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.