Shaikin: Many reasons explain Dodgers' collapse. 'Rigged' playoff format isn't one of them

Los Angeles Dodgers' Freddie Freeman reacts after striking out during the first inning.
Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman walks back to the dugout after striking out in Game 3 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres. Don't blame the new playoff format for the Dodgers' loss. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Dodger Stadium sat quiet and still Sunday. The gift shop was open, but the batter’s box was closed.

On this day, there would be no decisive Game 5 of the division series. The Dodgers had failed to force a fifth game, and the next game at Dodger Stadium is five months away.

That is on the Dodgers, not on a rigged playoff system.

There is a lot that is on the Dodgers.

The Dodgers are not shy about saying they play for October. They build their roster, and in particular their pitching staff, by managing workloads throughout the season so that every healthy arm can be fresh for October.

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The five teams still alive ranked among the top six in innings pitched by starters. Develop pitchers to go deep into games, and you can use your best arms more often.

The Dodgers played for Games 4 and 5 by running a bullpen game in Game 3, rather than starting their top three starters in the first three games. In the series, they used Blake Treinen for one ineffective inning and Dustin May not at all, suggesting they might have misjudged the readiness of pitchers with premium stuff but nonetheless coming off injuries.

Joey Gallo, a legitimate home run threat, appeared to be nothing more than a decoy. He did not bat, even in Game 3, when the Dodgers could have tied the score with one swing but opted for Gavin Lux as their pinch-hitter.

Without the pressure of a pennant race, they gave center fielder Cody Bellinger and closer Craig Kimbrel a season’s worth of runway to perform, rather than devoting all of September to implementing a Plan B for center field and a bullpen hierarchy.


The Dodgers then omitted Kimbrel from the playoff roster. In the three postseason games the Dodgers lost, the personnel management appeared more reactive than proactive.

Trayce Thompson, who abruptly replaced Bellinger in the lineup, got 13 at-bats and struck out in six of them.

This is not all on management. You don’t win 111 games on analytical voodoo alone. The players have to perform as well. Good hitters have to hit.

The Dodgers scored five runs per game in the regular season, three runs per game in the postseason. The Dodgers struck out in one of every three at-bats in the division series, hitting .227 overall and .147 with runners in scoring position.


Please do not moan, Dodgers fans, about the unfairness of it all. The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 14 out of 19 times during the regular season, then lose three of four to the Padres in the postseason and that’s all, folks?

In 1988, the New York Mets beat the Dodgers 10 out of 11 times during the regular season, then lost four of seven to the Dodgers in the postseason. I mean, you try telling Kirk Gibson the Dodgers’ 1988 championship was somehow illegitimate.

See, the postseason is not about determining the best team. That is what the regular season is for.

The postseason is about determining a champion, in the process enlivening and exciting an ever-growing number of fan bases by sending more invitations to a tournament.


This is not about extending the first round to a best-of-seven. If Major League Baseball really wanted the best team to advance 80% of the time, according to one study, the series would have to extend to a best-of-75.

Over the years, MLB has expanded the playoffs from two teams to four, then eight, then 10, and now to 12. The owners, remember, wanted 14: more games, more money.

Home field is a marginal advantage in baseball, and two or three of the four teams earning a first-round bye losing in the division series means the extra days off might be a marginal advantage as well.

If the league wanted to bestow a truly significant advantage upon the best teams, it would spot the Dodgers and other teams that earn a bye one victory — that is, the Dodgers would have started the division series with a 1-0 lead on the Padres. They would have needed to win two games to win the series; the Padres would have needed to win three. (Spoiler alert: That’s not happening.)


The NHL honors the best team in the regular season with the Presidents’ Trophy. The trophy winner has not won the Stanley Cup tournament in nine years. The Dodgers get all the aggravation of getting bounced from their league’s championship tournament, and they do not even get a trophy to show for it.

Since 1993, when the Miami Marlins made their debut, the Marlins have three playoff appearances, the Dodgers 16. The Marlins have two World Series championships, the Dodgers one.

If it is all about the rings, the Marlins are the more successful franchise. Are they, really?

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.