Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Citing Specific Examples

I've wrestled with this one for much of the 2011 season, ever since when Allan Selig announced that major league baseball was moving irreversibly toward adding two more wild card teams to the playoff format.  Days before the announcement was made, to the best of my knowledge, I wrote a post entitled "Twenty-Seven Percent," saying that part of the magic of baseball is that you actually have to show up to the regular season in able to qualify for the postseason, something that is not true at all for two (if not three) of the other major professional sports leagues.  But as of late, largely because Tony Massarotti had some good points on the radio regarding "punishing" a wild card team for not winning their division, I started to sway to the other side.

The last week and a half of Red Sox baseball has brought me right back to where I started.

Right now, the Red Sox are up 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth, with the bullpen not yet having blown Tim Wakefield's lead.  When they do and the end up with not their FIRST, but their SECOND 2-10 stretch of the season, they are still one of three teams fighting for one playoff spot.  Using the 5-team playoff format, they would be one of three teams fighting for two playoff spots.  All things being equal (and bear with me for a while here), they would have a 66% chance of making the playoffs.

They do not deserve that.  The Best Team Ever, if they do indeed finish (theoretically) behind Tampa Bay (who's winning right now) but in front of Anaheim, do not deserve a playoff berth.  They're a team that failed to show up for April and failed to show up for September.  News flash:  The baseball season doesn't start in May, nor does it end in August.  If you're a basketball player, yes, you only have to show up for 2/3 of the games.  If you're a hockey player, yes, you can go 2-10 TWICE and still be fine for the playoffs.  I have always held and want to continue holding baseball to a higher standard than that. 

Making it to the playoffs should be an accomplishment.  It should be what generational disgrace Scott Nicholson thinks his Colgate degree is, not what his Colgate degree actually is (something anyone can do if he has enough money and/or is capable of thinking).  If this Red Sox team continues to collapse like it has the last eleven games and gets the theoretical fifth playoff spot, the playoffs are not an accomplishment.

It's also bad for the game, because the value of those early-round playoff games are diminished even more.  Next year, I won't have a blog and therefore I very well might watch a new episode of Jersey Shore opposite a wild-card versus wild-card baseball game.  And even without the blog, I feel like I am more than an average casual baseball fan.

Don't cheapen the game.  Don't cheapen the regular season to the point that this chronically underachieving switch-off Red Sox team could get a fifth playoff spot next year.  No more playoff expansion.  It's the right thing to do.

4 comments:

The GM said...

Didn't think I'd get a chance to make another Scott Nicholson dig, but I'm glad I could. I have a strong feeling that Friday's post might make a mention or two of everyone's favorite twenty-something who thinks he's immediately worth $75K a year just because he has a college degree. I had a cultural epiphany this afternoon regarding the 1992 Red Sox and 1992 All-Star Game. I tried to explain it to the Franchise, but not only was she born in 1988, but is also female. So I'll explain it to you.

Also, Tim C, your comment from August 4, 2010 regarding the 46-inspired remake of "For Love of the Game" will hopefully make its way into the "Best of HYD" series.

Rocci said...

A few things:

1. Dude, the record don't lie. Just because they've won and lost in an inconsistent fashion doesn't mean they're taking games off. If they had a more even distribution of where their losses happened, would you honestly be happier?

2. I maintain the effort level in the NBA is the same as in any other sport, and people's perception of NBA players are completely off-base.

3. Why even have a playoff? If we want the best teams to play for the championship, let's just take the best two teams in each league over 162 games, and set them against each other in the World Series?

Anonymous said...

DV, great post and would be honored to make 'Best Of'. If it matters at all, you would make my 'Best Of' Boston blogger Power Rankings, PF perhaps sneaking his way in if I add a NY/NJ section.

Rocci, I think the idea that NBA players put in no effort is off as well but I still agree with DV. The difference of '2/3' and effort, I think, is a combination of a team-individual and process-result battle. On the team-individual side, NBA individuals have to give a full effort each night with no real ramifications for good teams not truly coming together thanks to the over-inflated playoff structure. On the process-result side, NBA players do need to give full effort, a process component of performance, but do not need to truly worry over the results side as a baseball player might (should?) since early season results in MLB can knock a team out of the playoffs whereas a mid-December clunker in Memphis does little to harm Boston's chances. You and DV might just be talking about two different things, to be honest.

TimC

Ross Kaplan said...

DV, love the continued Scott Nicholson reference though, if you're going to make another spoiled trust fund baby reference why not go with one of our Colby '07 classmates Jack Drury - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/08/nyregion/08trustafarians.html

I have no issue with adding a 2nd wild card team. Even if that happens there's still 2/3 of the league that isn't making the playoffs. Teams may still back into the playoffs like Boston is doing now or like the 2000 Yankees, but they earned the right to back into playoffs by building a big enough lead from April to August. It still won't be like the NHL where teams can luck into the playoffs. Even the 2007 Islanders were able to sneak into the playoffs without me knowing. That can't happen in baseball by adding a 2nd wild card. If anything it will make September that much more interesting if the Blue Jays/White Sox/Indians/Angels, etc. have a spot to fight for.