We’ve seen this coming for some time, but Bud Selig today said that baseball is “moving inexorably” toward an expanded playoff beginning with the 2012 season, and said that, while there are details to be worked out, it will likely be a ten-team affair. Specifically, he said “ten is a fair number.” This is a more precise way than he put it last fall when he said “Eight is a fair number. So is ten.”
Not that fairness is the real consideration behind this. If it was they’d just do a 30-team tournament because there’s nothing more fair than that. No, this is about revenue from highly-rated national playoff games and several hundred thousand more people going through the ballpark turnstiles at playoff ticket prices. It’s also about job security, as anonymous baseball sources have admitted that it’s way better to be able to tell the team’s owner that, hey, they put a playoff team together rather than put a good team together that fell oh so short.
The league wants it. The union doesn’t oppose it. It’s happening. I just wish that when people talked about it they didn’t try to convince me that there are baseball, as opposed to business arguments for it. Because there clearly are none.
UPDATE: OK, I’m being overly grumpy. An additional wild card round — which is what Selig suggested, though he doesn’t know its length — will make winning the division a preferable option to winning the wild card and will make it all the harder for a marginal team to win it all. That is a good baseball reason. It doesn’t overcome my distaste of it because I hate short series — and God help us if they make it a one-game play-in thing, because that’s just gimmicky — but I’m being a grouch when I say there “clearly are none.” I just don’t like ’em.
Now get off my lawn.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.