OK let's get all the jokes out of the way. You know, the ones that concern the irony of a Chicago Cubs fan bellyaching about the playoff format, or the "Why-Do-You-Care-Your-Team-Isn't-Even-In?" argument, or the "You're-Just-Jealous-Of-The-Cardinals" remark. Now that some of the possible arguments/questions concerning a Cubs fan breaching this subject are out, let's get to the point: the new MLB playoff format is awful.
I will admit to having been excited upon the announcement of adding a second wild card team to each league. All pros and cons considered, I thought, "Hey, I think I can get behind this." I guess I was naive back then. The MLB season is 162 games long. That's way too long in this fan's opinion, but that's an argument for another day. It's worth mentioning here because it is a terrible, and I mean terrible, travesty that the two wild card teams play a one-game playoff. What I love about adding the second wild card is that it gives a nice incentive for winning the division. But to put two (presumably) good teams' fate on one game is horribly inconsistent with how Major League Baseball operates in almost every other instance.
The Texas Rangers had an unfortunate collapse at the end of the regular season. Kudos to the Oakland Athletics for taking advantage of that. However, both the Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles (the other wild card team) deserved more than one game to make their season last. The Rangers were the best team in the American League for most of the season. The fact their season is put in the hands of a one-game playoff "series" is laughable. In football, one-and-done is part of the roller coaster energy. Baseball doesn't thrive on this same type of energy. When you play a methodical 162-game season, it seems disproportional to allow a team to go down in a one-game playoff. It begs the question; "Why are you playing a 162 games in the first place?"
The Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals' scenario fared no better. There is no proof that the Braves would have rallied in the eighth inning (down 6-3) had the questionable infield fly call not been made, but it's downright sad that their season hinged on that one call. If there was a three or (better yet) five-game series, the questionable call would have stood, but the Braves would have at least had a chance to even things out. The Braves were better than the Cardinals the entire season. Again, kudos to the Cardinals for winning the game, but the Braves deserved better than to have their season end on a highly questionable call.
I don't think the adding a second wild card team is a bad idea, I just think having it settled via the one-game playoff is. The format of the Division Series is suspect too. Having the lower seed get the first two games at home is ill-conceived. Sports is too momentum driven and these players are too good to allow that. The 2-2-1 format is the best. It's even-keeled enough to be fair, but gives the better team a two-fold advantage --first two games at home, and the last game at home. In the 2-3 format, if the lower seed wins the first two games at home, you can't say that the higher seed still has the advantage. I don't care the scenario, I would rather be up 2-0 with three road games, than be down 0-2 with three home games. So far, my complaints haven't really appeared this season, but I have little doubt it's just a matter of time until they do. I think 1-1-1-1-1 would be the best actually, but travel and pragmatic concerns would carry the day.
The structure of the series is up for debate (I'm sure I could be convinced otherwise) but the one-game playoff is worthless. Major League Baseball: Please, please, please change it.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.
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