October 24, 2021

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MLB's Wild-Card Sport Is Liked and Loathed

MLB's Wild-Card Game Is Loved and Loathed

BOSTON — The wild-card sport isn’t honest. Lengthy dwell the wild-card sport.

These could be contradictory opinions, nevertheless it all depends upon your perspective. When you’re a participant, you hate it. When you’re a viewer, you adore it.

“Is it honest? No, it’s not honest,” Curtis Granderson, the previous main league outfielder, mentioned on Tuesday. “Is it enjoyable? Completely.”

The Yankees fell to the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, within the American League wild-card sport at Fenway Park on Tuesday, a day earlier than the Nationwide League sport between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. The winner of every advances to a division sequence, that means that the Dodgers are already dealing with elimination regardless of tying their franchise record for victories with 106.

The reason being a quirk: As nice because the Dodgers had been, they performed in the identical division because the San Francisco Giants, who had been one sport higher. The Cardinals wanted solely 90 victories to share the stage.

“There’s no crying in baseball. We’re in second place. We’re within the Wild Card sport,” mentioned Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer, who additionally mentioned he appreciated that the playoff format inspired competitors to the very finish of the season.

“If I’m enjoying on a workforce that simply received 100 video games, I need to have the best to be on the market and type of stretch my possibilities for at the very least three video games — not only one and completed,” mentioned the Corridor of Famer Pedro Martinez, who will analyze the playoffs for TBS with Granderson and Jimmy Rollins. “The efforts of my complete workforce, my complete group, taking place the drain by dropping one sport? One little mistake?”

Martinez received his solely championship with a wild-card workforce, the 2004 Crimson Sox. Again then, baseball gave a wild-card berth to only one workforce in every league, and the playoffs began with the best-of-five division sequence. The format modified in 2012, with every league staging a knockout sport between two wild playing cards to open the postseason.

The video games have usually introduced excessive drama: rollicking comebacks in Kansas Metropolis and Washington, a walk-off homer by Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto, two street shutouts by Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. No matter you consider the format, its pull is irresistible.

“I’m going to observe each video games, and I’m going to get pleasure from them as a spectator,” mentioned Bud Black, who has received a wild-card sport and misplaced one other because the Colorado Rockies’ supervisor. “However when it’s over that shortly — bam, you’re completed. You’d prefer to have an opportunity to point out why you bought into the playoffs with at the very least three video games. I believe that’s the perspective of any participant, supervisor, common supervisor, coach. However from a fan’s standpoint, they’re nice.”

Ought to baseball preserve the wild-card sport as a result of it’s a lot enjoyable? Or kill it as a result of it’s a gimmicky manner for a workforce to danger its season? Finally, it appears, neither query is related.

As Main League Baseball and the gamers’ union negotiate a brand new collective bargaining settlement, they’ll strongly contemplate increasing the playoffs. Creating extra content material is a straightforward approach to elevate income, and final yr’s 16-team discipline — a money seize after a 60-game common season — provides a template.

“I believed final yr was fairly cool,” Black mentioned. “I do know it was a unique yr with the pandemic, but when one way or the other via negotiations we might shorten the season a bit — not a lot, 152, 154 video games, regardless of the quantity is — add one other workforce or two and play two out of three, I believe that works. And possibly with that time-frame, not as many days off between sequence. Make it just like the common season: You play consecutive video games, you get on a airplane, you play the subsequent day. These issues could possibly be labored out, so that you don’t drag it out an ideal deal.”

For many of baseball historical past, the regular-season champions of every league superior on to the World Sequence. The 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers (104-50) had an excellent higher successful share than this yr’s Dodger workforce, however misplaced the N.L. pennant to the Cardinals.

“I used to be with the Cubs after we had been nosed out on three or 4 championships, however that is the toughest factor I’ve ever gone via,” Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman mentioned within the subsequent day’s Brooklyn Eagle. “If you win 104 video games and end second, there isn’t something to say.”

The format lastly modified in 1969, when baseball cut up into 4 divisions and added the League Championship Sequence. That was the one playoff spherical via 1993, when the Giants received 103 video games however misplaced the N.L. West by a sport to Atlanta.

“You simply accepted it,” mentioned Black, who pitched for the Giants then. “We had been conditioned to that: You both win your division or not. However it was such yr and we performed so nicely, we did really feel somewhat shorted.”

Whereas Black mentioned he felt for the 2021 Dodgers, others from his period don’t. Ken Singleton, who retired final weekend as a Yankees broadcaster, as soon as performed for six second-place groups in an eight-year span with Baltimore. In 1980, the Orioles received 100 video games however misplaced the A.L. East to the Yankees; they’d have welcomed even a one-game playoff ticket.

“Who is aware of, we’d have gone on to win the World Sequence — however there was no wild card in these days,” Singleton mentioned. “The Dodgers are within the playoffs. We weren’t. So I don’t have a lot sympathy for them.”

Three groups have used the wild-card sport to launch a run to the World Sequence, with the 2014 Giants and the 2019 Nationals successful the championship. Singleton mentioned he hoped the playoff format would keep as it’s, as a result of the postseason can stretch to November already. He doesn’t thoughts that the unbalanced schedule places an emphasis on divisional play.

“When the Crimson Sox received the division in 2018, they went 16-3 towards the Orioles,” Singleton mentioned. “When the Yankees received in 2019, they went 17-2 towards the Orioles. And this yr, the Rays went 18-1 towards them. So in a manner, the Orioles maintain the important thing to the division. When you play nice towards them, you’re going to win.”

The Orioles misplaced 110 games this season, tying with the Arizona Diamondbacks for essentially the most within the majors. And the way did the Giants and the Dodgers do towards the Diamondbacks within the N.L. West?

The Giants beat them 17 occasions, and the Dodgers beat them 16 occasions. That one sport was the distinction within the division.

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