Column: It breaks your heart
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 22:10
As a Mets fan, I will be the first to admit that the idea of a second Wild Card team initially sounded appealing to me. I mean hey, the idea of fewer teams not making the playoffs definitely helped New York’s chances.
And when July hit, I will admit that I was still a fan. The Mets were not dominating anyone, but they were sticking around the top of their division, and with an additional playoff spot, it seemed that sticking around the top was all the team would need.
So I will admit that maybe I am a little hypocritical when I say that as soon as the Mets let their season go to waste, I realized just how ridiculous baseball’s new Wild Card format really is.
How in the world can a league with six months of play, where games are played at least six out of seven days a week, let the playoffs for some teams end after three hours? It’s heartbreaking.
“It breaks your heart. [Baseball] is designed to break your heart,” said Bart Giamatti, the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball and a man that is much smarter than I. Giamatti was of course discussing how baseball lines up with seasons (with its blossoming coinciding with spring’s and its ending coming around the time of the first snow) and the new Wild Card game; but he may as well have been.
The most heartbreaking situation this year had to indeed come from the Atlanta Brave’s Wild Card match-up with the St. Louis Cardinals. Take away the fact the Cardinals deserved to win the game, take away the ridiculous infield fly call, take away my hatred for the Atlanta Braves, and you have an 88-74 team moving on to the next round of the playoffs past a 94-68 team. That’s heartbreaking.
Let’s look at playoff situations for some of the other sports leagues. In the NFL, teams face single elimination throughout the playoffs after a regular season of only 16 games, making the playoffs last as long as – for a team eliminated after one game – about six percent of the regular season. Compare this to the NBA and NHL, which both have 82-game seasons (in a world where lockouts don’t exist). Playoffs could end for a team after four games, or about five percent of the regular season.
The Major League Baseball season lasts for 162 three-hour games. That means for two teams under the new Wild Card rule, the playoffs last 0.6 percent as long as the regular season. So the question of how to fix the current system then goes to the question of whether or not expanding the one-game Wild Card series to three or five games would be a solution. But then things get complicated with over-resting the other teams and the whole idea goes out the window. Which, if it did, would also be heartbreaking.
Because in theory, allowing more teams into the playoffs is a terrific idea. It keeps more teams and their fans excited about August and September baseball, given the fact that there are simply more teams eligible for a playoff spot. But to get more fan bases excited for months before the playoffs, just to rip everything away after possibly less than a three-hour fluke of a game? Well, I guess that would be baseball. And if that happened to my Mets, that would break my heart.