Barely two weeks ago, Chipper Jones told reporters what he thought of Major League Baseball's new one-game wild card playoff. He said it was garbage. And, as CBS Eye on Baseball pointed out, what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Jones as saying eerily matches what happened to the Braves on Friday evening in a 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals:
"You say to yourself, we could possibly have the second- or third-best record in the National League when the season's over and we have to play a one-game playoff just to get in," Jones said. "That doesn't seem fair because anything can happen [in one game]. Now if you were to say the two wild-card teams will play a best two-out-of-three [series], I'd be OK with that. We play three-game series all the time, and we concentrate on winning those series all the time. I think it's more fair from a standpoint that anything can happen in one game — a blown call by an umpire, a bad day at the office … at least in a two-of-three-game series you have some sort of leeway."
No leeway. Game's over. Season's over. Career's over. Just as Jones said it might.
A blown call by an umpire. Instead of loading the bases with one out no outs in the eighth inning with the potential lead run at the plate, a mistaken infield fly ruling by umpire Sam Hollbrook handed a free out to the Cardinals and took a runner of the bases. It also prompted fans to delay the game for 18 minutes by throwing everything in their possession, seemingly, onto the field. The game's entire character was changed. Credit to Jason Motte of the Cardinals for pitching out of it. But he also was handed a stacked deck.
The call wasn't the only reason the Braves lost — they sustained several self-inflicted wounds with uncharacteristically bad defense and poor baserunning. And even Chipper himself was to blame. File it under the "bad day at the office" clause in his wild card complaint.
Jones committed a critical error in the top of the fourth to get St. Louis rolling. After making a neat stab on a grounder by Matt Holliday, Jones threw wildly for an error to second base, botching what probably was a double play. Slugger Allen Craig followed with an RBI double, and the Cardinals added two more runs to take a 3-2 lead they didn't give back.
As you might figure, Jones said to hang the loss on him.
''Ultimately, I feel I'm the one to blame,'' Jones said. ''That should have been a tailor-made double play.'' ...
Jones refused to pin this loss on the umps.
''That one play didn't cost us the game. Three errors cost us the game,'' he said. ''We just dug ourselves too big a hole.''
Chipper also had a chance at the plate in the seventh, but he grounded out with two runners aboard. He also reached in the ninth on an infield hit/error/bad call. But it led nowhere.
In another season, the Braves, the umpire — anyone who had a bad day at the office — would have another chance to make up for it in Game 2. But with this playoff format, there is no tomorrow if you lose Game 1. And Chipper knows it as well as anybody.
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