Saturday, March 3, 2012

So it's okay to finish in 2nd... or 3rd?

Because everybody should brag about finishing in 2nd place in their division.

Ever since the idea of adding a second wild card team to the postseason came about I was against it.

The NHL has 30 teams, and 16 of them get into the playoffs (53%). The NBA also has 30 teams, and 16 of them make the postseason (53%). The NFL has 32 teams, and 12 of them make the playoffs (38%). I'm sure some people think that makes those leagues' postseasons more exciting, as more teams have a shot at the championship, but to me that waters down the significance of making the playoffs in the first place.

MLB has 30 teams, but only 8 of those teams make the postseason (27%). To me that makes a berth in the postseason mean so much more, as it's so much harder to get there. Not to mention having half the league get to the postseason makes division championships, something all teams in all sports like to brag about, utterly meaningless.

It's not as bad as youth leagues that give every single team and player trophies, which makes competition completely pointless, but it's not that far off from what the NHL, NFL, and NBA do.
*Note, I believe that competition is a good thing for kids to learn and go through. I lost as a kid playing sports, and I won as a kid playing sports. Doing so showed me the importance of hard work in order to accomplish my goal(s). If losing discourages a kid that much, then that kid isn't even close to prepared for the real world, and their parents and teachers have some work to do before the kid leaves high school.

In fact, the only reason I came to accept wild card teams was because they were a necessary evil. I think the two division system we saw before 1994 was making it so too many teams just didn't have a chance, turning fans away from the game (MLB adopted the 3 division format in 1994, but the postseason was cancelled due to the strike). I mean, not all fans can be as die-hard as Cubs fans, who fill Wrigley Field game in and game out even though they're seeing a losing team. But you can't have an odd number of teams in the MLB playoffs, because that would mean somebody would be sitting around for up to two weeks. And CC Sabathia can tell you how extra days off can actually hurt a baseball player.

So the wild card was the way to go. But Bud Selig has changed things so there will now be two wild card teams in each league, and they will play one game against each other to move on. One game? This isn't football, hockey, or basketball, where the entire team contributes in a single game. Baseball teams depend on multiple starting pitchers to contribute to the team getting to the postseason, and they don't all do so in one game. So it seemed stupid to have a baseball team get eliminated from the playoffs because of one loss, where only one starter contributed.

That is until somebody at Daily Sports Pages pointed out that hurting the wild card teams with a one-game series is a good thing. Sure, MLB has to have a wild card team, but they don't have to give the wild card teams an even playing field with those that actually won their divisions. After all, MLB teams had 162 games to earn a berth in the postseason (the fact that the NFL only has 16 games to earn a playoff berth makes it so I don't look down so much on how many of their teams make the postseason).

So not only does the new system making winning divisions that much more important, but they make having the best record in the league that much better (as they would face the wild card team that moved on from the one-game series), and the teams that couldn't win the division have it a lot tougher in the 2nd round.

By the way... I'm not the first person to use the term "one-game series", but am I the only one bothered by it? How can something be a "series" if there is only one of it? I should just accept some things and move on.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)