MLB’s wild card game is loved and hated

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BOSTON – The game of jokers is not fair. Long live the game of jokers.

These may be conflicting opinions, but it all depends on your perspective. If you are a gamer, you hate it. If you are a spectator, you like it.

“Is that fair? No it’s not fair,” Curtis Granderson, the former major league outfielder, said Tuesday. “Is it fun? Absoutely.”

The Yankees fell to the Boston Red Sox, 6-2, in the American League game at Fenway Park on Tuesday, a day before the National League game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals. at Dodger Stadium. Each winner moves on to a division series, which means the Dodgers are already facing elimination despite their franchise record tying for wins at 106.

The reason is a quirk: As good as the Dodgers were, they played in the same division as the San Francisco Giants, which was a game better. The Cardinals only needed 90 wins to share the stage.

“There is no crying in baseball. We are in second place. We’re in the Wild Card game, ”said Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer, who also said he liked the playoff format to encourage competition until the very end of the season.

“If I play for a team that has just won 100 games, I want to have the right to be there and extend my chances for at least three games – not one and over,” Hall of Famer said. Pedro. Martinez, who will analyze the playoffs for TBS with Granderson and Jimmy Rollins. “The efforts of my whole team, my whole organization, crumble by losing a game?” A little mistake? ”

Martinez won his only championship with a wild card team, the 2004 Red Sox. Back then, baseball offered a wild card slot to only one team in each league, and the playoffs began with the series. top five divisions. The format changed in 2012, with each league hosting a knockout game between two jokers to open the playoffs.

The games have often been very dramatic: meteoric returns to Kansas City and Washington, an Edwin Encarnacion scoreless homerun in Toronto, two shutouts on the road from Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. Whatever you think of the format, its appeal is irresistible.

“I’m going to watch both games and enjoy them as a spectator,” said Bud Black, who won one wildcard game and lost another as manager of the Colorado Rockies. “But when it’s over so quickly – bam, you’re done.” You would love to have a chance to show why you made it to the playoffs with at least three games. I think that’s the point of view of any player, manager, general manager, coach. But from a fan’s perspective, they’re awesome.

Should baseball keep the joker game because it’s so much fun? Or kill him because it’s a fanciful way for a team to risk their season? In the end, it seems neither of the two questions is relevant.

As Major League Baseball and the players union negotiate a new collective agreement, they will strongly consider extending the playoffs. Creating more content is an easy way to increase revenue, and last year’s 16-team field – a cash grab after a 60-game regular season – offers a model.

“I thought last year was pretty cool,” Black said. “I know it was a different year with the pandemic, but if somehow, through negotiations, we could shorten the season a bit – not much, 152, 154 games, regardless of the number – add another team or two and play two out of three, I think it works. And maybe with that amount of time not so many days off between playoffs. Do like the regular season: you play back-to-back games, you get on a plane, you play the next day. These things could be sorted out, so you don’t hang around a lot. “

For most of baseball history, the regular season champions of each league have qualified directly for the World Series. The 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers (104-50) had an even better winning percentage than this year’s Dodgers team, but lost the NL pennant to the Cardinals.

“I was with the Cubs when we missed three or four championships, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced,” Dodgers second baseman Billy Herman said during the Brooklyn Eagle the next day. . “When you win 104 games and finish second, there is nothing to say.”

The format finally changed in 1969, when baseball split into four divisions and added the League Championship Series. It was the only playoff round until 1993, when the Giants won 103 games but lost NL West by one game to Atlanta.

“You just accepted it,” said Black, who then pitched for the Giants. “We were conditioned to this: you win your division or not. But it was such a good year and we played so well that we felt a bit short. “

While Black has said he feels for the 2021 Dodgers, others in his day don’t. Ken Singleton, who retired last weekend as broadcaster for the Yankees, has already played for six second-place teams in eight years with Baltimore. In 1980, the Orioles won 100 games but lost the AL East to the Yankees; they even reportedly hosted a one-game playoff ticket.

“Who knows, maybe we would have won the World Series – but there was no wild card back then,” Singleton said. “The Dodgers are in the playoffs. We weren’t. So I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Four teams used the wild card game to step into the World Series, with the 2014 Giants and 2019 Nationals winning the championship. Singleton has said he hopes the playoff format stays as it is, as the playoffs may already stretch into November. He doesn’t mind that the lopsided schedule emphasizes division play.

“When the Red Sox won the division in 2018, they went 16-3 against the Orioles,” Singleton said. “When the Yankees won in 2019, they went 17-2 against the Orioles. And this year the Rays have gone 18-1 against them. So in a way, the Orioles hold the key to the division. If you play well against them, you will win.

The Orioles have lost 110 games this season, tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for most in the majors. And how did the Giants and Dodgers fare against the Diamondbacks in Western NL?

The Giants have beaten them 17 times and the Dodgers have beaten them 16 times. This game alone made the difference in the division.


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