One-game playoff Deep Thought

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The Rangers are out. And the Braves — as approximately 2,245 of you have reminded me — are out too.  They were the losers in baseball’s new one-game playoff and thus their season has ended.

Normally when a team gets knocked out of the playoffs there is space and time for anger and/or reflection and/or crying about it. If only the manager wasn’t an idiot! If only our bullpen didn’t suck! If only x, y, z, etc. etc.!!

Really, though, it’s hard to get worked up about how it all ended this year. I hope Rangers fans feel the same way. I hope that fans of any team that plays and loses in the wild card playoff from here until the end of time feels that way too, because one game — while meaning everything in the context of this new playoff format — means nothing in terms of how good, bad, flawed or whatever a baseball team is, and thus should not form the basis of a fan’s anger or sadness.

This isn’t sour grapes. I realize the season ended and if they wanted to advance, my Braves had to take care of business. They didn’t, and it’s all on them. I’m not going to blame baseball for it or claim that their elimination was somehow illegitimate. These are the rules, and if the Braves don’t like being eliminated in a one game playoff, they should have won their division.

But it’s not gonna cause me, as a fan, to be too mad or sad about my team.  For my entire baseball-watching life, one game — outside of occasional playoff series elimination games — hasn’t meant anything.  Bad games happen and the guys live to fight another day. Think of how many Game 1 flops your favorite team has had in playoff series in the past. Now think of whether, how they did after Game 1 affected how you felt about them. Think about how it would have changed if they were playing in the wild card series then.

What I’m saying is that just because Bud and the TV networks decided that one game is everything doesn’t mean I have to change how I’ve always understood baseball. And my understanding of baseball is that a team’s value is determined over a season. Or, less fully, over a month. Or less fully than that, over a series.  And, the 2012 playoff elimination notwithstanding, I will still and will always judge the Braves 2012 season as a successful one.

Watch: Ryan Goins tags Todd Frazier with the hidden ball trick

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The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.

Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.

Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.