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The wild card game is going to be like baseball on Mars

Sep 18, 2012, 11:33 AM EDT


I assume I was aware of this when the new playoff formats were announced, but if so I totally forgot about it.  From Buster Olney:

The wild-card games will be conducted under circumstances we’ve never seen before in the postseason. The participating teams will set 25-man rosters for this one-game, winner-take-all extravaganza — rosters that don’t have to carry over to the Division series matchup. So the Braves and the other wild-card entrants don’t have to carry multiple starting pitchers.

Just more distortion from a setup that already distorts all that is important in baseball: depth, stamina and the ability to win a majority of games as opposed to EVERY GAME MATTERING like it does in other sports.

It’s quite possible that we’ll have a wild card games with starters going three innings, followed by seven relievers used over the course of the next six innings with every quasi-critical situation leading to some matchup-optimizing pitching change. All of the anti-excitement of an All-Star Game except the outcome matters way more.

Why on earth are the rules this way? If the wild card game is the playoffs, why aren’t teams required to use their postseason rosters? This makes zero sense to me and just underscores how contrived the play-in game is.

  1. kevinleaptrot - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Just the other day there was a post here about Bud Selig being “Solomonesque.” ROTFLMAO

  2. craftylefty318 - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    “It’s quite possible that we’ll have a wild card games with starters going three innings, followed by seven relievers used over the course of the next six innings with every quasi-critical situation leading to some matchup-optimizing pitching change.”

    All the more reason to root for the Yankees to win the division. The only thing more overtaxed than viewers’ patience would be Girardi’s binder in a game with this set-up.

  3. chill1184 - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    So should we expect a 3.5 to 4 hour wild card elimination game next month?

    • kevinleaptrot - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      Or longer. Maybe MLB can do like the NFL and get replacement umps so that they can really drag it out.

      • chill1184 - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Oh the blooper reels and internet rage will certainly be out if that happens.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      Nah, Boston and NY won’t be facing each other. Good thing we have asinine rules like this instead, though.

  4. fozziebear5 - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    I bet no manager will take advantage of this quirk to change their usage of pitchers, as obvious as it may seem. Why? Same basic reason that they reserve closers for save situations instead of deploying them where they’d be best used. Fear of thinking outside the box, combined with a desire to avoid having their decision questioned in the media or by the boss.

    If you start Kris Medlen or Adam Wainwright or CC Sabathia or Chris Tillman and you lose, nobody blames the manager. Try something unorthodox and lose, however, and you face a long offseason of questions. No manager wants that. I think that will affect their decision, consciously or subconsciously, even in something as important as a single elimination game. Maybe they’ll have a quick hook, but I bet most or all of them will still name a starter and stick with him for at least 5-6 innings unless things go south.

  5. theonlynolan - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure teams are allowed to make changes to their rosters between playoff rounds. Therefore, the all or nothing game gets a roster, then the division series does, along with the championship series and world series. Allowing a separate 25-man roster for the first game is what MLB should be doing if it is in fact a playoff round.

    • pmcenroe - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      yeah this is exactly what I was thinking. Besides teams taking advantage of it being 1 game instead of a series are the roster rules any different from the DS, LCS, WS?

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      Exactly. Anything else would be a departure from the rules of the recent past. This just stands out now that the play-in game is only one game.

      I personally kind of like the idea of a Thunderdome style game: 2 teams enter, one team leaves. You figure it will be all hands on deck anyway, so I doubt the roster arrangement would do anything to change that. In fact, if they have each starter throw an inning or two, wouldn’t everyone be available for the division series?

    • chadjones27 - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      Teams are allowed to make changes between rounds. However, the way this is set up, a manager now only need 1 starting pitcher not the 4 he’d normally have on the roster. so that’s an additional 3 spots for bench depth or extra bullpen help. So, you can see how this could lead to 4 innings of constant over managing and changing pitchers every 2 batters. As Craig said, it kind of distorts the depth and stamina over a series concept.

      • theonlynolan - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        I understand Craig’s point but if the all or nothing game is indeed round 1 of the playoffs then it should get its own roster just like all other playoff rounds. Any other treatment of the first game would be a departure from the rules used in previous playoff formats. Craig seems to be implying in his post that playoff rosters are set before the playoffs begin and may not be changed. As I said previously in this post that simply isn’t true. Postseason rosters can be changed between each round and the wild card game is the first round.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:02 PM

        How many teams have extra magically awesome bullpen arms lying around unused? I would imagine that the other starters would be better than the 7th, 8th and 9th best reliever a team can find, so it would make sense to carry them on the roster regardless. In a one game playoff, it should be ‘all hands on deck’ , so if Fredi Gonalez needs Medlen, Sheets, Hanson etc out of the pen, he better use them.

      • chadjones27 - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        I agree that the play in game should have it’s own roster. I just don’t like it. If a team doesn’t have “magically awesome arms laying around” they will be able to stack the bench with pinch hitters and runners.

      • pmcenroe - Sep 18, 2012 at 2:25 PM

        personally I think they should just submit the same roster they plan on using for the division series, but I really dont care all that much. I seriously doubt this is going to make any significant difference what so ever. Like a poster said above its not like managers are going to do anything crazy, they are going to ride their ace and use the same bullpen roles they’ve done all year and go to the same pinch hitters they normally use. Maybe we’ll see an extra pinch running move but nothing to get too excited about.

    • gloccamorra - Sep 18, 2012 at 9:54 PM

      This isn’t a playoff round, it’s a sudden-death play-IN game, like the one in the NL in 2007 when the Rockies and Padres played for the one playoff spot. Like that game, it should be considered a 163rd game with the September expanded rosters. THEN the winning team gets a playoff roster for it’s best of five SERIES playoffs. Why make the extra wildcard more complicated? The 2007 equivalent, an extra inning game that ended when Holliday didn’t touch the plate was exciting enough, wasn’t it?

  6. townballblog - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    I kind of like the rules. It’s all about pitching, Craig. You’re essentially asking two of the teams to play an extra game, a game the division winners don’t have to play, therefore the winner of the game will then have played an extra game. In so doing, the may not have their best pitchers available when they play the division winner.

  7. williamnyy23 - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Do teams have seven effective relievers in the first place? Even though teams can take a loaded bullpen into the “play-in” game, how many really want to be in a position to use it all? If you play bullpen roulette long enough, you’re going to find the load chamber.

    • natslady - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Some do. The Nats do. (Relating every thing to the Nats, of course and as usual).

      Clippard (RHP, “closer); Storen (RHP, “setup.” ROOGY, yeah, really!); Garcia (RHP, September callup); Mattheus (RHP, 7th inning); Stammen (RHP, long reliever). M. Gonzalez (LHP) “setup” LOOGY); Gorzelanny (LHP, long reliever); Burnett (LHP, “setup”). Ooops, that’s eight.

      And that doesn’t count using John Lannan out of the bullpen.

      • umrguy42 - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        Okay, I feel stupid for asking, but what’s the “OOGY” in “LOOGY” (and “ROOGY”) stand for? I mean, I’m totally assuming “L” is for “Left”/”Left-handed”…

      • natslady - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        LOOGY = (Lefty One-Out GuY) left handed pitcher who specializes in getting (exactly) one left-handed hitter out.
        ROOGY = same, but much rarer. When Storen was first back from his injury, on a few occasions he came in for one batter (e.g., David Wright).

      • natstowngreg - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        It means “one-out guy.” It usually refers to lefties (“LOOGYs”); “ROOGY” is a term you’ll almost never see. A LOOGY is a guy who has a job in a MLB bullpen because he can get left-handed hitters out (but not right-handed hitters). The LOOGY is brought in to pitch to one or more left-handed hitters; over the course of a season, he will pitch in many games, but very few innings.

  8. eagles512 - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Selig needs to go. What short sighted thinking.

    • Old Gator - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Selig needs to go. He’s making his gerontologist look bad.

    • chill1184 - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      Herr Selig has needed to go for a few years now, this just ads more reasons why.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      Selig needs to go, but this is not the reason why.

  9. temporarilyexiled - Sep 18, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I understand the idea of putting more emphasis on winning your division. I even understand the idea that this will put more excitement into September. This year, it’s doing that in the American League. But in the National League, it’s now a battle of severly flawed teams desperate to be fifth best. And even in the American League, you could make a case that all of the division races still have lots going on, and it’s not like we’d be bored without this new wrinkle. Would it be so crazy simply to have best records still mean something? Home field does matter, especially in game sevens. And if a team is good on the road, then they deserve what they’re able to accomplish. Best record gets home field in the World Series. And everything else follows suit. If I’m a Braves fan, and my team loses a one game playoff to the Cardinals or Dodgers, I’m pissed with good reason. I’ll take the evil of just getting in as a wild card without as much penalty over what I believe to be the bigger evil of watering down the competition.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      The new system DOES reward the team that won the most games. They get the benefit of playing the somewhat compromised wildcard winner. Since the wildcard team had fewer off days, and a pretty important game in the interim, they do not have the benefit of setting their rotation to throw their ace in a division series game 1.

      • temporarilyexiled - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        When we get past the All Star Game nonsense, and return to best record in baseball gets home field advantage in the World Series (I know I’m dreaming here), then we can debate the merits of new versus old scenarios. Unless of course you like the current All Star setup, in which case, we won’t be able to get past one debate to get to the other. My idea, crazy as it might seem, envisions 32 teams, 4 divisions in each league, and no wild cards. Obviously, scheduling, travel, expansion/moving teams, etc. enters into this. But at least you have to win your division, and it certainly wouldn’t cut into postseason revenue/interest/excitement.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:56 PM

        Hey I am with you on that. The All Star game nonsense is just that. My only point is that the second wild card does help the best team in the league; not hurt them.

        I would rather they just take the 5 best teams in each league and do away with divisions. They are just a silly mechanism to try to develop contrived rivalries where none exist. I would much rather MLB allowed natural rivalries to develop (Yankees-Rangers, anyone? Philies-Giants?)

      • temporarilyexiled - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        Good point. I agree. My qualm is when a lousy fifth seed beats out a much more deserving fourth seed. It’s one thing when there’s a disparity between division winners. At least they actually won a division. And they play well more than one game to determine the final outcome. When it’s a one game play in game between – let’s say – the Braves and either the Cardinals or Dodgers, I throw up in my mouth a little. And I’m a Giants fan. If the Braves get jobbed by this new system, it really does bring up whether the cure is worse than the disease.

      • bravesfaninbama - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:36 PM


        When did the ‘best record in baseball get home field advantage in the World Series’? This has not been the case as long as I can remember. Granted, I’m only in my 30s. Before the All-Star Game winner got home field advantage in the Series, the leagues just alternated years.

      • temporarilyexiled - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        bravesfaninbama, the answer is…in my diseased mind. You’re correct, of course. My wishful thinking would appear to extend to the past, as well as the future. Maybe you too will be lucky enough, when you’ve got a couple of more decades on you, to have history will magically conform to your fantasies, and bear little resemblance to anything that ever happened.

      • bravesfaninbama - Sep 18, 2012 at 2:11 PM


        Thanks. I didn’t know if it used to be like that (before I started watching) or not.

      • mckludge - Sep 18, 2012 at 5:19 PM

        at sabathiawouldbegoodifyourusernamewasshorter :-)

        There are other benefits to regional divisions. The most obvious one would be reduced transportation costs for the owners. It’s one thing to fly the Dodgers to SanFran. It’s another to fly them to Miami. Hell, the Dodgers can drive to San Diego. Same with Philly to Washington. I’m sure that was one of the driving reasons to realign 20 years ago.

        5 best teams in each league sounds good to a fan, but logistically you would have to have balanced scheduled where each team played every other team the same number of times or else it wouldn’t be fair. Throw interleague into that balanced schedule mix, and then why have different leagues in the first place if everyone plays everyone?

  10. frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Good thing Tony LaRussa isn’t still managing the Cards. That game could go on for weeks…

    • aiede - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Robin Ventura has become his philosophical successor. You give Robin a 40-man roster in September, by God he’s going to use 40 men.

      • natslady - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:04 PM

        Interesting. Same for Bochy, I guess. Davey has the opposite philosophy, he said he doesn’t want a bunch of extra guys hanging around the dugout. Nats September callups:

        – Chrisian Garcia (RHP relief pitcher who could well make the playoff roster);
        – Zach Duke (LHP, starter but being used in relief, could make a spot start later);
        – Eury Perez (speed-of-light outfielder and pinch runner).
        – John Lannan (LHP, to take Strasburg’s starts)

        That’s it.

        Also, activated from the DL, DeRosa (utility player) and Chien-Ming Wang (RHP).

      • natstowngreg - Sep 19, 2012 at 12:07 AM

        And Corey Brown.

  11. randygnyc - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    I suppose the one game playoff game is considered a play-in game to MLB. Makes sense if you view it from the perspective that only 4 teams make the playoffs, but 2 teams must play to get there also

  12. natslady - Sep 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Indifferent re: Selig. Wish he would settle the TV in the Nats favor–or at least impartially–because it stinks what he and Angelos did. But, very happy that MLB doesn’t have replacement refs (NFL) and has a season (NHL) and a full season, at that (NBA).

  13. temporarilyexiled - Sep 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    After you get past the garish space suits and long travel delays, you have to deal with playing in a Martian ballpark that makes Coors Field seem a hundred times smaller than Fenway Park.

  14. johnchesterny - Sep 18, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Will a wild-card entrant be able to use any player aquired after the September 1 deadline, when the playoff rosters are frozen? If so, I could see some GM making a waiver deal just for the one game.

    • 1981titan - Sep 18, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      This is the key point no one else has made. What team had 6 extra players on their August 31 roster. The entire 40 man roster is not available.

  15. leftywildcat - Sep 18, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Wouldn’t baseball on Mars be played by 18 NASA robots? OK, 20 if they used the DH rule.

    • bh0673 - Sep 19, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Keep one thing in mind the DH would have been in the National League as well if it weren’t for the fact the owners of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were not reachable. The GM of Pittsburgh was told to do whatever the Phillies GM did and the Phillies GM couldn’t reach the owner who wanted it.

  16. bh0673 - Sep 19, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    The whole extra Wild Card idea is a joke. Everyone points to last year when it came down to the last night and how exciting it was, but what everyone seems to miss is the fact that if there had been two wild card teams last year it wouldn’t have mattered. If there had been two Wild Card teams Tampa and Boston would have both been in and Atlanta and St. Louis would have both been in so the final night of down to the wire would have been set before the games were even played. Secondly when a .500 team and even a .497 team can be only 4 games out it loses credibility. Yes it is good for the fans of those teams but does a .500 team deserve to even be in the playoffs to begin with? I am a lifetime baseball fan but I am not buying into this idea at all I think it stinks.

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