By Ed Coleman
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Baseball just never seems to get it right.
No matter how hard MLB tries, it can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. I’ve listened to all the experts and geniuses who want to fix postseason baseball, and none of it makes any real sense to me.
While people are falling all over themselves to add more wild-card teams to the mix, how about assessing what currently exists and try to make it better?
Everyone’s talking about the early exits of baseball’s two winningest teams, the Phillies (102) and Yankees (97). Yes, Philadelphia did stand above the crowd, but the other three playoff teams in the National League were all 90-game winners: Milwaukee (96), Arizona (94) and St. Louis (90). And the American League qualifiers were also all 90-game winners: Texas (96), Detroit (95) and Tampa Bay (91).
Hey, the Cardinals might have had the Phillies’ number this year. They won 6 of 9 during the season, and even took 3 out of 4 in Philly in mid-September. But there’s something to be said about rewarding excellence over a 162-game schedule. And deep-sixing the ridiculous five-game opening round series is a good place to start.
MLB plays twice as many games as the NHL and the NBA – and this year it’ll probably be more than that with the NBA already canceling games. Yet both basketball and hockey have seven-game series throughout their playoffs, beginning with the opening round.
Traditional thinking contends that the longer a playoff series goes, the better team has a greater chance to win because of talent and depth. A hot team, a hot goaltender, a team which owns another could easily upset that equation. And if so, so be it – that’s sports. I don’t know if the Phillies or Yankees would have come back to win Games 6 and 7, which they would have had to do. But don’t they deserve that chance, finishing at the top of their sport after a grueling six-month grind?
Baseball could easily do this by cutting back to the old schedule — 154 games — but what do you think the chances of that happening is? The owners would have to give back an entire 4-game series at home.
It’ll never happen. Nice thought.
Basketball and hockey play six-month schedules, but play half the games that baseball does, yet they maintain seven-game playoff series throughout their postseason. At the very least, baseball deserves that.
And for those of you who want to add another two wild-card teams to the mix, keep this in mind: The last day of the regular season this year was considered to be THE best or one of THE best in baseball history. There were four games on the final day which meant everything. And three of them produced fabulous finishes which kept everyone glued to their TV’s and radios throughout the night — and morning.
St. Louis started the night with a rout of the Astros in Houston 8-0. A little more than an hour later, the Phillies tied the Braves with a run in the ninth off the impenetrable Craig Kimbrel, and then Hunter Pence singled in the winner in the 13th to doom Atlanta. By knocking out the Braves and welcoming in the Cardinals, the Phillies might have doomed themselves.
Meanwhile, over in the other league, the Orioles got two runs in the bottom of the ninth off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (who was having a great season) to beat Boston 4-3 and put them on the brink of elimination. And the Tampa Bay Rays – who trailed the Yankees 7-0 – tied the game 7-7 in the ninth inning on a two-strike, two-out home run by pinch-hitter Dan Johnson (are you kidding?). Then, four minutes after Boston lost, Evan Longoria homered in the 12th inning to put the Rays in the playoffs.
Does it get any better than that, final day or not? You decide.
It wouldn’t happen every year – but it did this year. And it might happen again. Sooner than you think.
So think about it.
C U soon
Do you agree that the five-game series has got to go? Let Eddie know in the comments below…