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BIG SANDY LAKE… OK. Who should I write to and thank for the two extra MLB playoff games this fall? Or who should I chastise for this playoff distraction and aberration? For me, this additional one-game-off, wildcard addition to the playoff format was a bad idea from the start. Instead of the three division champs from each league and one wildcard entrant, we now have two wild card clubs from each league who meet in a one-game showdown to determine who moves on into the “real” World Series tournament.
This is just a blatant money grab on behalf of MLB. I also think this format is a disaster waiting to happen. When you have the top eight to ten teams in MLB and two of them meet in a one-game showdown, anything can happen. Let’s say that you are the wildcard team in the first position under the “old” format, and now you have to engage in this one-game playoff against the other club that got in because of the new format. Instead of moving on into a real best of five series, you play the one game, have a bad night, and lose. How’s that working for ya? Think you might be a little irritated?
You were on your way to a best of five series under the real format, you were guaranteed a home game or two, and now you are forced to play in this made-for-TV special, maybe have a bad night, and poof! You are gone! And that’s not even considering what can happen in the midst of the game as far as a bad call or weather delays and so on. What would a one- or even two-day rainout do to the rest of the playoff schedule? I have to think, or at least hope, that the powers that be, including Bud “the Dud” Selig, considered every conceivable angle of plus and minus possible before moving forward with this epic playoff format change.
But after watching “Wild Card Friday” last week, I am convinced that they didn’t bother with this part of the planning process. In the first-ever wildcard showdown, you had the Baltimore Orioles at the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals at the Atlanta Braves. The weather held up at both venues and the Rangers-O’s game went off without a hitch, with Baltimore winning and advancing. These two clubs actually had identical regular-season records, with Texas becoming the home team for this game via tiebreaker procedures.
The Braves were the home team for the NL game due to a superior regular season record over the Cards. That game did not go off without a hitch. In the bottom of the eighth, with two runners on and one out, Braves hitter Andrelton Simmons lifted a high fly ball towards the Cards’ shortstop Pete Kozma. Somewhere in the ball’s descent it started to drift towards the outfield, well beyond the infield dirt. Then right before the ball would have been caught, Kozma backed off, thinking his outfielder had it. Simultaneously, the left-field umpire, literally about 20 feet before the ball would have hit the ground, called for the infield fly rule to be invoked. The ball hit the turf, and the short of the long is that instead of having bases loaded and one out, Simmons was ruled out, and the Braves had two on and two out. The Cards pitched out of the inning, but not until after a twenty-minute delay due mostly to Braves fans littering the field with debris after realizing what had happened. The Braves played the remainder of the game under protest, which of course was overruled.
Did the Braves get jobbed? Not according to MLB. At the least, I believe the infield fly rule was inappropriately applied. Could the Braves have rallied and possibly overcome the Cards’ lead at the time? Well, bases loaded and one out is a better baseball situation than two on and two out. Baseball is all stats, numbers, and situations, and the first scenario is a lot better for the team at bat than the latter. At any rate, I’m not surprised that at least half of the first “Wild Card” playoff turned out to be a disputed disaster.
As a Twins and Cards fan, I’m not exactly in tears over the Braves’ exit from the playoffs, but if this wildcard nonsense didn’t exist (and it shouldn’t), the Braves would be engaged in a best of five series in the NLDS right now, and the Cards would be packing up their gear for spring training. What I want the most as a fan is for the powers that be to get it right, even if it means my team doesn’t advance. Let’s have some integrity. Right now Bud the Dud has put his league and the game itself in jeopardy with this lunacy playoff format. Worse yet, since he was one of its architects, no matter how badly it goes, it’s here to stay….. PEACE
MFAN EXTRA: I am looking for the Reds to advance in the NL playoffs, and the dreaded Yankees to advance from the AL. I like the Reds to win it all….
THE MFAN NFL PICKS FOR WEEK SIX:
(HOME team in CAPS)
Steeler over TENN
ATLANTA over Oak
Cincy over BROWNIES
Goatmen over FISH
Indy over J-E-T-S
PHILLY over Lion
BALT over Boys
T BAY over Chefs
Pats over SEABIRDS
CARDS over Buff
G-men over NINERS
Vikes over WASH
Bronco over SAN DIEGO
HOUSTON over Cheese
LAST WEEK: 10-3 (incomplete); SEASON TOTAL: 45-31
OVER & OUT!
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.