Thursday, October 09, 2008

Everyone got the meme ... MLB Playoffs are a sham

Even the Brits are aware of how bad the Jays get hosed by baseball's division alignment and playoff structure.
"If you think it's bad for those teams, try being a Blue Jays fan. Ever since the World Series years and then the lockout, we've been coming third behind the Yankees and Redsox, just waiting for one of them to decline. Finally the Yankees aren't so good, though still better than the Blue Jays, so you think second place and maybe the wild card is now in sight, but no, here comes Tampa bloody Bay." -- "limeyfletch," commenter on The Guardian Sport blog
Tampa bloody Bay. As the football commentators across the pond say, Brilliant! Long story short, this whole idea that the playoffs are a bastardization of the real game is gaining traction.

The invaluable ShysterBall today had a link to a Christine Brennan USA Today column that argued,
"A team with the 15th-best record in baseball is four games away from the World Series. And the teams with the two best records in the game are at least 169 games from the World Series — next year's World Series ... It's time for MLB to go back to two divisions in each league, with the top two teams in each division making the playoffs. In other words, no more 15th-best teams allowed."
Ms. Brennan is far better one than Hank Steinbrenner to point of the inequities of the selfish and tyrannies of evil men that reward the L.A. Dodgers and make life harder for your Toronto Blue Jays. Three rounds of playoffs is here to stay. Having two division champs and two wild cards means an 84-win team making the playoffs (or 83 -- see the 2006 Cardinals -- or 82 like the 2005 San Diego Padres) would happen almost never, instead of almost every year.

Like ShysterBall said one year ago, "At best, (the playoffs) only tell us who, out of eight generally talented teams, is playing the best baseball for a particular couple of weeks." That seems like a logical reason not to place so much emphasis on it as a fan, especially with the unbalanced schedule. The Brits, at least those who comment on The Guardian Sport blog's baseball posts (check out the one of their lot who refers to the game as "a gentle version of the rounders played by the younger girls in this country," figured as much:
"A question for those more in the know. Tampa are young and talented are only going to get better; the Yanks and Boston will spend big and improve come what may. To get through, even a wildcard, a team will have to win 95 matches. Given over on the west coast the Angels get to duff up a bunch of losers half the time and coast through before their inevitable choke against the Red Sox (maybe if they were given a tougher ride in their division they might grow some balls?), is it possible to, er, change the odd team around a bit, or is that sacrilege? Just seems harsh on the Rays, Red Sox and the Yankees."
See, even Roddy Doyle gets it. It's kind of funny. Every wannabe sportswriter is at least aware of Thomas Boswell's famous column where he gave 99 reasons why baseball is better than football. (Boswell subsequently said it was one of the easier columns he's ever written.

Reasons No. 44-46 were, "wild cards," (which baseball wouldn't adopt for another seven years), "The entire NFL playoff system is a fraud" and "parity scheduling." All three of those contagions are now entrenched in baseball.

That being said, there is nothing noble about refusing to frame the playoffs the be-all, end-all of the Jays' worth. It's a little like the Paul Rudd character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin after he appointed his most honourable member to the Senate, where it was required to do nothing. Know how I know you like the Jays? You stopped caring about the baseball playoffs. This is the first of, like, three conversations that leads to you becoming a Rays guy.

Ultimately, it is is good to see more major media folk and even Brits who have never seen a baseball game in person starting to pick up on the awful truth that Bud Selig, et al., are in denial over. This site has been repeating that refrain ad nauseam (apologies) since the outset of the '07 season -- "Until baseball gets a scheduling and playoff system which actually gives us a fair shot, whoever makes the playoffs is pretty much arbitrary." (April 1, 2007)

Baseball's playoff system is broken. Even cricket-watching, crumpet-eating warm lager-drinkers are clued in to the reality. It's a great time to be alive.

For fair ball, postseason baseball format needs tweak (Christine Brennan, USA Today)

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