It’s not complicated: the A’s would have been a whole lot better off this week having to face Justin Verlander twice in seven games than twice in five games.
And just as it’s always been, it’s absurd that MLB starts off the postseason with a best-of-five round before moving on to two best-of-sevens.
Given time to set their rotation, the Tigers are obviously a more dangerous team in a five-game series than a seven-game series. It’s not that the rest of their rotation is bad, but Verlander in 40 percent of the games works a whole lot better than throwing him in 29 percent of the games.
The A’s couldn’t beat Verlander, and they couldn’t sweep the other three games. There’s a good chance they would have lost a seven-game series, too, but at least that would have been the fair fight. In six trips to the playoffs under Billy Beane, the A’s have five ALDS losses, all of them 3 games to 2. They had to face Roger Clemens twice in two of them and Pedro Martinez twice in another.
If there’s one thing that’s already been made obvious this postseason, it’s that no team is head-and-shoulder above the rest. It’s never made any sense to let five games decide one round and seven the others, particularly since so many of these LDS matchups seem just as evenly matched as any series that will be encountered later on. Perhaps a second straight ALDS loss for the Yankees would increase momentum for the extra games.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.