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Imagine if this was 1993

Oct 1, 2012, 8:52 AM EDT

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

I love how the last week of the season is shaping up, what with the Orioles and Yankees fighting it out for the AL East, each trying to avoid the one-game wild card thing.  But reader Innocent Bystander makes a good point in the comments this morning:

O’s/Yanks battle seems exciting on the face of it, but if we rewind to when just 2 Division winners went to the postseason and there were no Wild Cards the drama would be even more intense. Imagine if one of these teams was going home. For that matter, go back farther to league winner goes directly to the World Series and you would have a great 3 team race with the Rangers. And in the NL the Reds/Nats would be a lot of fun too. More playoff teams doesn’t necessarily make the races better.

Like I said: it’s still exciting now. But don’t let anyone — be it a broadcaster or a Commissioner of Baseball — make you believe that the excitement we’re going to have these last three games and then again on Friday’s do-or-die wild card games is unprecedented or impossible without the current playoff format.

  1. makeham98 - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    It may not be unprecedented, but is more likely to occur each year.

    • southofheaven81 - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      The devil’s advocate response to that is that it’s more special when it doesn’t occur every year. But try telling that to advertisers & bored fans.

    • Jeremy Fox - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      Is that really true? Exciting races are close ones. In any given year, there could be ties or small gaps anywhere in the standings, and big gaps anywhere in the standings. If you add more teams to the playoffs, aren’t you basically just shifting the point in the standings where you want the ties or small gaps in the standings to be in order to have close races? Like the post says, this year there are some great races–but if we had one of the older playoff formats, we’d just have *different* great races, involving teams higher up in the standings.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 1, 2012 at 12:12 PM

        There are more races in the current format. It is more important to win the division, so teams are invested in that race. If a team has locked up a wild card spot they are still invested in having a better record than the other WC team to secure home field advantage for the 1-gamer. Then the race between the eventual last WC team and the also-rans.

        There is then the guaranteed excitement of a one game, win-or-go-home play-in game, along with the possibility of tiebreaker games to decide who goes to the one-game play in.

        I obviously don’t know how it will shake out each year, but there are certainly more opportunities for exciting races under the current format than ever before.

      • madhatternalice - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        It’s true if it’s not the same teams fighting for those slots every year. I suspect the second WC will help ensure more parity, even if it’s just for a one game playoff.

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        Yes, but that’s not what I meant, sorry if I was unclear. I just meant that, if teams that are all easily assured of a playoff berth have similar records, those similar records don’t lead to any drama.

        I think it would be an interesting exercise to go back through past seasons and see how many close playoff races there would have been had different playoff formats been in place at the time. Obviously, you can’t check all possible formats in all past seasons. It doesn’t make sense to ask how, say, a “division winners make the playoffs” format would’ve worked before divisions existed. But I’d be very curious to see how it plays out. Maybe somebody’s already done this and I just don’t know about it.

      • madhatternalice - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:16 PM

        I see what you mean now. But don’t those similar records lead to drama itself? Look at the NL: there’s a big discussion going on right now about whether it’s worth it for the Nats to chase #1, or stick with #2.

        There’s tons of intriguing possibilities as the season closes. If every post-season position is locked in by September 10, then I agree: that’s awful boring baseball.

        But as long as the threat of a one game playoff, I think there will always be drama…

      • Jeremy Fox - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:26 PM

        True enough. Although you could get that same drama in other ways. Short series guarantee drama. Imagine if it were like the NFL playoffs, where every series is a one-game series! I’m not actually in favor of that at all (though on the other hand I wouldn’t go as far as folks like Craig who think one-game playoffs are against the season-long-grind nature of baseball). I’m just saying that there’s a difference between a playoff structure that creates drama by maximizing the chances of close races for valuable prizes (like “make the playoffs” or “avoid the play-in game”), and a playoff structure that creates drama by just having inherently-dramatic (because inherently-crapshoot-ish) short series.

    • kevinbnyc - Oct 1, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Last years races were awesome. Collapses, playoff spots going down to the wire, etc.

      Fearless leader Bud took it upon himself to ensure that happened every year with this new system.

      Its cool, but it just seems artificial. Let awesome races happen organically.

  2. randomdigits - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Would have been tough for the O’s if this was ’93 they wouldn’t have anyone to play these last three games.

  3. urdoingitwrongreds - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Teams are trying to win wild card spots, and other teams are still trying to win division spots. I think MLB nailed this one.

  4. willclarkgameface - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    The 2 Division per League format was the best. I used to love the League Championship series. Now I mostly can’t remember who played in the LCS year to year for either league because there are so many damn playoff games.

    1993 was a strange year. Read about that god damn NL West race that season. Still gets under my skin big time.

    • bravojawja - Oct 1, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      It was AWESOME!

      I was living in the Bay Area that fall and got to go to Candlestick for the Giants’ final home game, against the expansion Rockies. I wore my Braves hat. The Giants lost that game, giving the Braves a one-run lead they lost a couple days later against (I think) the Astros.

      In the end, it was Dodgers fans doing the Chop on top of the Giants dugout in LA on the last day of the season. Good times.

      • vikesfansteve - Oct 1, 2012 at 1:46 PM

        Bullshit

    • hojo20 - Oct 1, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      AMEN! I remember when Boston won the division in 1986, it was a HUGE deal…..Now, ho hum they make the playoffs almost every year now. The novelty wears off.

  5. southpaw2k - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    Point made, but the Yankees want no part of that one-game playoff Friday night. They’ll have all hands on deck against Boston the last three games of the season, and I’m praying that the Red Sox would love to do everything in their power to take the division away from the Yankees. I feel dirty rooting for Boston, but if it means the O’s wind up as AL East champions I will gladly bite the bullet.

    • greymares - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      I’m a big O’s and Red Sox fan right now. It’s fun watching my Yankee fan freinds ringing their hands.

    • madhatternalice - Oct 1, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      But…if the O’s and Yanks win out, won’t the O’s still win the division? They’d have the better division record…

  6. Old Gator - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    The problem with this viewpoint is that it doesn’t take into account that great rivalries are cumulative in their emotional freightloading. Every time one of these affairs resurrects itself, it takes on not only the immediate drama of the current proceedings, but brings back the accumulated history of all the past triumphs and defeats and sets up a new round of schadenfreude for the years to come. It won’t be merely a matter of which team is still standing at the end of the process; it will be a matter of the memories or history of each once-upon-a-time the other guys went home early too. Each victory by one team instills the desire in both the players and fans of the defeated to beat the bastards next time. At the same time, each successive victory redeems the defeats of the past. Better: when there are teams, like the Gloryholes, who have been out of the picture for as long as they have, the enormity of their past traditions come back to the fore with renewed intensity and savor, like good aged wine. And for the teams and fans alike, that tradition consists as well of their victories over, and defeats by, teams they might not even be dealing with in a meaningful way in this particular season. In baseball, this stuff never dies – and the new system merely opens up more opportunities to add to the amalgamated traditions being brought to the table, now and in the future. In other words, more games, more opportunities to win or lose when the games count so much more, enriches the game, the experience for the fans, and ultimately places more pressure on the players. It’s the difference between a quickie on the couch and a long night of wine, roses, candles, incense and soft music with the CD player set on random. I like it better this way.

    • indaburg - Oct 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Very well put. Not that I expect anything less from you.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    If it was 1993 again the Jays would actually be a good team!! Maybe Proudly can build a time machine and live back in 1993 cause its the only way he’s ever going to see the jays win anything ever again cause the future is not so bright…

    • nategearhart - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      Yeah, but the trade-off would be the damn Phillies going to the WS AGAIN.

  8. Francisco (FC) - Oct 1, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Imagine if this was 1993

    The Phillies would be going to the postseason… *sigh*

    • southpaw2k - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:26 AM

      …and Mitch Williams would be Public Enemy #1 in Philadephia.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:34 AM

        Joe Carter still appears in Canadian commercials.

  9. sportsdrenched - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    1993? That was the fall I discovered chearleaders!

    • sportsdrenched - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      What were talking about again?

  10. proudlycanadian - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    1993 was a very good year, but as Craig well knows, 1992 was even better!

    • mazblast - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      Just…shut…up.

      Signed,

      Pirate fan

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        I remember some great Pirate teams in the past. On a positive note, you are not a Cubs fan.

    • cur68 - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      This

  11. pw38 - Oct 1, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    1993? The Rangers sucked back then and I was too entrenched in the middle of Cowboy heaven to even care about baseball. All I remember was thinking it was weird for a Canadian team to win the world series.

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      1992 was even better than 1993 as the Jays beat Atlanta to become the first Canadian based team to win the World Series.

      • pw38 - Oct 1, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        I don’t really remember much from the 1992 game but I do remember seeing Joe Carter win it with that homer. That was pretty cool.

      • pw38 - Oct 1, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        Meant to say 1993. I don’t remember the 1992 series at all.

  12. vallewho - Oct 1, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    tru dat

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 1, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    It would be the realization of that recurring anxiety dream, where my high school calls to tell me that I am actually missing 2 Spanish credits because I skipped class to smoke pot every day, and I have to go back to high school Spanish or all of my other credentials will be erased. I’m sweating now just thinking about it.

  14. watermelon1 - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I still wish divisions in all sports were wiped out.

    Teams play all other teams evenly. Playoffs just take the top X amount of teams based on records… and then Top seed plays lowest seed, etc.

    That way every year, home fans get to see the rest of the league at home at least every other year. Less problems with competitive balance due to being stuck in a horrible or stacked division.

    Sure, it’s more travel/logistics cost for the league and teams. But why should I care about that? They make more than enough.

    People would argue “it doesn’t build rivalries.” sorry… but rivalries will be built in the playoffs. When teams make it there more than once a decade. Good teams will develop rivalries when they run into the same opponent in the playoffs and one team ends the other team’s season.

    And yes, the same principal would be applied to other sports.

    • watermelon1 - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      I forgot to mention that this method would also allow ANY two teams to play for a Championship. You could end up having a Yankees/Red Sox world series with this method… as everything is based off records. Not based on what arbitrary league or division you were assigned by some committee.

      You could have a Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins Super Bowl.

      Celtics vs. Heat NBA Championships.

      Penguins vs. Flyers Stanley Cup.

      You all get the picture.

  15. clydeserra - Oct 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    If this were 93 the national league would not really be more exciting. the reds would have to win one more to eliminate both the giants and braves. The expos would have been cruising for a while.

    Sure the American League has been good, but that is going to happen every year, some good some bad.

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