Monday, August 13, 2018

Unintended Consequences

I will be the first to admit that I was against the idea of a wild card team, period. It seemed to me to fatally undermine the great accomplishment of winning the Long Season.

If the purity of the World Series had already been diluted since the instigation of league championships in 1969, well, at least every team in the playoffs had to finish first in something over baseball's 162-game schedule, unmatched in any league and any sport, anywhere in the world.

Even if it meant expanding, I wanted to have first-place teams only, in the postseason.

Well, the wild card put paid to that. It also enabled Boston to have its infamous second crack at us back in 2004, leading to the worst single moment in Yankees history. But I have to admit, it did keep a lot more teams in contention most years, including us, and created a sort of secondary pennant race.

Of course, the infamous corporate creation known as "MLB" could never leave well enough alone. One wild card worked out? Why, how about two?

On the surface, it didn't seem like such a bad idea. While a special, single wild-card game might signify nothing in and of itself, it at least penalized whoever won enough to give a real boost to finishing first.

But now, here in our seventh season of the double wild card, we see what it has led to:  the NBA-ization of the major leagues.

Right now, in the American League, at least, over half the teams are tanking, looking to get so low they can't help but get better. (It's little better in the senior circuit.) Those teams that are left in contention, meanwhile, will likely spend the rest of the season cakewalking home, gearing everything toward preparing for the playoffs which—as in the NBA, and the NHL, are the "real" season.

The only thing resembling a race right now is whether Seattle or Oakland will win out for that precious, second wild card spot. If the Yankees' bullpen continues to perform its Daring Young Men on the Flying Trapeze Act, this may change in a hurry.

But even so, 9 teams in the league, including the whole of the AL Central after Cleveland, will be looking to get down, get way down, and maybe cause a little mischief here and there.  Wreck a contender's pitching staff, cause an injury, etc.

Almost from the beginning, the big four of the league, Boston, Houston, the Indians, and the Yankees, have sprinted away from everyone else, in the classic style of the Warriors, the LeBrons, Houston, Boston, etc., over in hoopland.

This is probably fine with "MLB," which has for many years considered the NBA to be its role model, right down to grandiose plans to expand on a global scale, and the elevation of marketing above all. But it makes for bad baseball, and waning fan interest.

"Come see us three-to-five years from now, when we're back," much of the sport now says to its fans, a sort of prison-term advertising.  "Forget all this crap, the season starts in October," even the contenders have to say.

Hey, I'll be as thrilled as anyone if, say, the Yankees get all their guys back, brush off months of erratic, sloppy play, and somehow ruin the Boston Pilgrims' season in a best-of-five series. But that won't tell us a damned thing about what the best team was this year.

It will, instead, be an NBA finish, decided by who's hot and who's not, whose injuries hit early, and whose hit late.

And of course, what will be MLB's answer to this? Why, another wild card, I'm sure, and then another...


Vampifella said...

Better yet in addition with half the league being in on wild cards, lets have split seasons like in 1981. A set of playoffs before the All-Star Games and then we do it all over again and have playoffs in October. Crown Summer and Fall winners every year.

That way we have lots and lots of teams (if not all of them) which can stay relevant and in contention and also it doubles the playoff payouts, etc. Sure it totally ruins everything that is baseball, but we are way past that silly notion right?

Skip said...

just in case you are interested I just saw this on the site:

Anonymous said...

Or we can do it like the All Star game where there has to be an All Star from every team regardless of whether or not there is a better player at that position. So...

MLB makes an alphabetical list of the teams and every year the two teams whose letter comes up automatically makes a wild card game.

If the team has already made the playoffs it goes to the next team on the list regardless of record. The winner of the wild card game plays the 2nd Wild Card as chosen by the current system who then plays the 1st wild card.

So this year as it currently stands for the AL

Red Sox

1st Wild Card Yankees vs. Winner of

Oakland vs. Winner of

Baltimore Orioles Vs. Chicago White Sox (Because Boston is already in the playoffs)

That way it's fair and everybody gets a chance to be in the playoffs! Plus to make it more fair, even if you don't make the playoffs...Everyone else gets a trophy!

Doug K.

HoraceClarke66 said...

You have a bright future awaiting you in the MLB offices, Vampifella!

And while we're at it, why not go back to the old idea of TWO all-star games, plus ads on the uniforms, and maybe the helmets, and the bases.

Oh, what a brave new world we have to look forward to!

HoraceClarke66 said...

The irony is, we're right back where we started—only with less excuse.

In the 1920s-1950s, especially after the advent of farm systems, there were plenty of ballteams that were owned by people who just didn't have the capital to compete: the St. Louis Browns, the Washington Senators, the White Sox, the Red Sox before Yawkey, the Athletics after Connie Mack's pipeline from Baltimore dried up, the Boston Braves, the Pirates for some years, the Brooklyn Dodgers before George V took charge, and above all the Phillies, the losingest all-time team in baseball, which did not figure in a single pennant race between their pennants in 1915 and 1950.

In other words, there were a helluva lot of farcical games, played against terrible teams before tiny crowds. The commissioner and the other owners never forced most of these guys to sell, maybe because they knew there would be few buyers in the Depression years, at least.

So here we are again...only now, the owners have reams of money, much of it obtained via revenue-sharing and luxury taxes on our favorite laundry. They have the money, they just don't care to spend it, preferring to ream the fans instead!

13bit said...

3D chess, above the heads of mere mortals:

It’s a full-circle promotion for Kontos, whom the Yankees drafted in the fifth round back in 2006. Kontos was taken by the Padres in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft but returned to the Yanks before appearing in the Majors, and he ultimately debuted in the Bronx during the 2011 season. However, Kontos only totaled six innings in pinstripes, as the Yankees flipped him to the Giants in exchange for catcher Chris Stewart the following April.