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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.