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One-game playoff Deep Thought

Oct 8, 2012, 9:13 AM EDT

Wild Card Game - St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

The Rangers are out. And the Braves — as approximately 2,245 of you have reminded me — are out too.  They were the losers in baseball’s new one-game playoff and thus their season has ended.

Normally when a team gets knocked out of the playoffs there is space and time for anger and/or reflection and/or crying about it. If only the manager wasn’t an idiot! If only our bullpen didn’t suck! If only x, y, z, etc. etc.!!

Really, though, it’s hard to get worked up about how it all ended this year. I hope Rangers fans feel the same way. I hope that fans of any team that plays and loses in the wild card playoff from here until the end of time feels that way too, because one game — while meaning everything in the context of this new playoff format — means nothing in terms of how good, bad, flawed or whatever a baseball team is, and thus should not form the basis of a fan’s anger or sadness.

This isn’t sour grapes. I realize the season ended and if they wanted to advance, my Braves had to take care of business. They didn’t, and it’s all on them. I’m not going to blame baseball for it or claim that their elimination was somehow illegitimate. These are the rules, and if the Braves don’t like being eliminated in a one game playoff, they should have won their division.

But it’s not gonna cause me, as a fan, to be too mad or sad about my team.  For my entire baseball-watching life, one game — outside of occasional playoff series elimination games — hasn’t meant anything.  Bad games happen and the guys live to fight another day. Think of how many Game 1 flops your favorite team has had in playoff series in the past. Now think of whether, how they did after Game 1 affected how you felt about them. Think about how it would have changed if they were playing in the wild card series then.

What I’m saying is that just because Bud and the TV networks decided that one game is everything doesn’t mean I have to change how I’ve always understood baseball. And my understanding of baseball is that a team’s value is determined over a season. Or, less fully, over a month. Or less fully than that, over a series.  And, the 2012 playoff elimination notwithstanding, I will still and will always judge the Braves 2012 season as a successful one.

  1. goskinsvt - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    It’s hard from a baseball fan’s perspective to view the Braves season as anything but a disappointment, especially given how they played down the stretch, unless you view being 2nd in your division by 6 games and then getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs as a success.

    • goskinsvt - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:27 AM

      sorry 4 games back.

    • skids003 - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      I think they actually had one of the best records in baseball in September, like 20-10.

      • goskinsvt - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:50 AM

        That’s what I’m saying, given the fact that they had a super-hot run in September and made nothing of it, it makes the loss even more disappointing.

  2. greymares - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Okay so you took the High Road but there is no doubt in my mind if that was the Phillies that lost that 1 game playoff you would have all kinds of responses saying Philly fans deserve what they got or the cream comes to the top or what ever negative story you could have written. until I started on this site the Braves were just a team i hoped the Phils would beat when they played, but other than that i had no opinion but thanks to you and your Philadelphia attitude, I SAY THANKS ST.LOUIS.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Has it ever crossed some of your minds that the reason Craig writes some of the stuff about the Phillies, is because you lot are so easily annoyed?

      • biasedhomer - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:40 AM

        “Do the Cardinals stand a chance?”
        – Craig Calcaterra

        Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

  3. deathmonkey41 - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    Well, if it’s any consolation- I’m hoping Andruw Jones brings home a ring this year.

  4. skids003 - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I don’t think a one game playoff between two teams who may be games apart is fair either. Maybe 2 of 3, at least, but the season already goes almost to Thanksgiving, and it’s about dollars.

    And I don’t say this because I’m a Braves fan, I felt this way 6 months ago. For once, I agree with Craig.

  5. recoveringcubsfan - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Craig nearly got it right. The regular season should in fact determine which teams are good enough to contend for the title of “world champion” at the end. Those teams that can defeat all others over a grinding, long season, and emerge from the pack through accumulated wins on the basis of some kind of acknowledged all-around superiority, should play for the right to be called “the best.”

    That’s the crime of the new format: teams that are obviously not even in the conversation as “the (potential) best” are given a second chance to defeat a clearly superior team – in this case, the Braves – and as we all know by now, they then have a very good chance of making it through the playoffs and possibly even winning the title!

    The take-away is: what good is the regular season if you’re going to put two, or three, or four (in years where there are only 3 good teams in each league) pretty crummy teams into the post-season and then give them very almost-even odds to beat teams that did a great job for the previous 6 months? This is simply leveling the playing field for bad teams when the bad teams (sorry, St. Louis) shouldn’t even be there!

    How is this OK with people?

    • madhatternalice - Oct 8, 2012 at 12:35 PM

      “Superior” team my left foot. The Wild Card was created as a sop for that one team that was really good, but not good enough to win their division. The first Wild Card hasn’t earned anything, and certainly doesn’t deserve anything more than home field advantage in that one-playoff game.

      We’ve already got a best of five, a best of seven, and another best of 7. This should be more than enough to prove who the “best team in baseball” is.

      Bottom line, and I really can’t stress this enough: win your division. There are already maximum of 18 post-season games in each division, not counting the World Series. Do you really want the quality of post-season play to degrade even more by adding MORE games?

      Who “should” be there? What kind of statement is that? The teams that win should be in the post-season. If the Braves and Rangers couldn’t get it done, then they shouldn’t be there. If the Yankees and Nationals lose this week, it won’t matter if they had the best records in baseball: they lost. Would you cry a river over an Orioles/Tigers ALCS, even though those two teams had the worst records of any AL team in the postseason?

      Seriously: win or go home. How hard is this?

  6. illcomm - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Like all braves fans Craig, if your mad, just do the classy thing n throw a beer bottle on the lawn.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      You clearly didn’t read the earlier post. Besides, everyone knows that classy Braves fans do some kind of racist Indian thing.

      • skids003 - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:27 PM

        And Cubs fans almost kill of of their own over a foul ball. Still waiting for a repeat of 1906?

  7. kvanhorn87 - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    If you count choking one game later than you did last year a success, then you and the Braves deserve each other.

  8. beefytrout - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    As a Rangers fan, it’s been pretty difficult to get too worked up over it. The team didn’t have any swagger over the last two months. Quite frankly, when you go out and play the way they did in the last week, it’s probably best you don’t get into the actual playoffs, because you’ll get destroyed.

    • pw38 - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      Yeah the Ranger’s season ended pretty much the way I expected it to. They had some serious mental fatigue and other assorted issues. I was only disappointed it didn’t end earlier because frankly they didn’t deserve to even have a shot at the playoffs with the way they played down the stretch. What makes it even better is the A’s are being outclassed by a Detroit team the Rangers have had good success with. Go figure.

  9. florida76 - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    It’s fine to have a successful season, but at the end of the day, it’s still about winning the World Series, and having that experience as a fan. While I would have preferred a best of three format for the wildcard, it is what it is. True champions will find a way to get it done, regardless of the circumstances. The simple, undeniable truth is that the Atlanta Braves have only won a single World Championship since they became the Atlanta Braves.

  10. neveraboutveracity - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Listen to me, Braves. It’s not your fault.

    It’s not your fault.

    It’s not your fault.

    • mckludge - Oct 8, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      ** Shoves neveraboutveracity **

      Don’t f**k with me, neveraboutveracity! Not you!

  11. charlutes - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    I’m surprised you don’t boycott the braves for having a team identity that’s racist towards Native Americans. If only the Native Americans were homosexuals I assume you’d be fighting for their cause.

  12. natslady - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Atlanta put Medlen in the BP so he would have innings for the playoffs. And he did. He was terrific in the stretch (though mortal in the last game). The Nats made a different decision-the right one, as we see it–to get those early wins, build up that 8.5 lead and get the Division.

  13. temporarilyexiled - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    I hate the one-game playoff. Hell, I hate the wild card. At some point, would it be so crazy as to have eight four-team divisions and end up with eight postseason berths? Is it so outlandish to have 32 teams? Would this rob MLB of so much suspense…viewership…money?

    Of course, I want division rivals to play each other 14 times (42 games), the rest of their league 6 times (72 games), and every team in the other league 3 times (48 games – alternating years at each venue) to get to 162. As a baseball fan, I’ll just ignore the obvious travel and scheduling objections.

    The current system seems too contrived to me. MLB still can’t even award home-field advantage to the teams with the best records across the board. This isn’t rocket science. As overly involved as my ideas seem, none of it is any wackier than some of the stuff we’re already experiencing.

    • pw38 - Oct 8, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      Yeah but the All-Star game means something now! Right?

      *slaps forehead*

      • temporarilyexiled - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:15 AM

        Yes, it means Melky Cabrera has something to laugh about, which is a good thing, considering he has multiple millions of reasons NOT to laugh.

    • greymares - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      absolutely no whackier than the designated hitter which has put the biggest flaw on the greatest game invented.

      • temporarilyexiled - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:35 AM

        I’ve actually come around to accepting the DH. Not enough pitchers can bunt worth a damn. And not enough managers are strategic geniuses. More often than not, it’s just a low point in the proceedings. With PEDs now somewhat regulated, the game has returned to some sort of balance. Adding more offense to the National League no longer seems so bad to me.

  14. salvomania - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    That’s the crime of the new format: teams that are obviously not even in the conversation as “the (potential) best” are given a second chance to defeat a clearly superior team

    I’m sure you (or your dad) were moaning and groaning back in ’73, in the “old” format, when the 82-win Mets faced off, and beat, the 99-win Reds in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the A’s.

    And you were left shaking your head in ’87 in the “old” format when the 85-win Twins lucked in and got to a chance to take down the 98-win Tigers in the ALCS, and then went on to play–and beat—the 95-win Cardinals in the World Series.

    Face it, ANY playoff system gives “inferior” teams an opportunity to beat a “better” team—that’s the point. Otherwise you’d just get rid of divisions and have the best of the 16 NL teams meet the best of the AL’s 14 teams.

    You may quibble with the NUMBER of teams that make the postseason, but 10 out of 30–and really, only 6 out of 30 get a guaranteed multigame postseason series—seems like a reasonable number in 2012.

    • madhatternalice - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      Technically, eight teams are guaranteed a multigame post-season series. We just don’t know which 2 WCs will make it. Otherwise, I think you’re spot on.

  15. Brian Donohue - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    old Joe owns the bodega downstairs from my apartment here in Bklyn. Puts in about 14 hrs./day to keep the place going and his neck above financial water. We have a recurring straight-man/one liner skit that we’ve done for years, goes something like this:

    ME: Hi Joe, the usual this morning. Tough break about those [name of team] losing last night.
    JOE: What happened Brian — did no one get paid?
    ME: Oh, they all made their money all right, Joe.
    JOE: Oh, then you mean they won.

  16. maynardstool - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Who do you think you’re kidding. This is the epitome of “sour grapes”.

    So you’re telling me you would have written the same piece had “your Braves” won? I call BS on that one.

    You would think most rational people would expect the Braves to choke. He’ll it’s the thing they’ve done best for the last 20 years.

  17. atlrod - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    I hated the one-game playoff when it was announced. I hated it early in the year as it became clear that the Braves would have to battle the Nats for the division. And I hated it at the end of the year when I realized a 94-win Braves team would have to play an 88-win team in this “playoff.” At least make it best of three. One game tells you almost nothing about baseball. But the reality is that this is the system. The Braves had to win this one game and they couldn’t. I feel annoyed that they won’t go on to play longer series against teams they are closer to in quality. But I’m not mad at the Braves’ front office for not winning one baseball game. That’s just silly. Next year, they’ll just have to hope to win the division to avoid the insanity of the single-game playoff.

    • madhatternalice - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      Win. Your. Division.

      • atlrod - Oct 8, 2012 at 5:18 PM

        Thanks for summarizing my last sentence. That was really helpful. Oh wait. Sorry. Let me try again:

        That. Was. Really. Helpful. Thanks.

      • madhatternalice - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:19 PM

        I spent about 25 minutes trying to write something down to your level. I couldn’t do it.

      • atlrod - Oct 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

        Don’t sell yourself short. Saying nothing new, but framing it as a series of one-word sentences and pretending it’s significant and revelatory is pretty low-level stuff. I’d say you did a fantastic job.

  18. eagles512 - Oct 8, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Not a braves fan but it’s a joke that a good 162 game season can be ruined in one game. Make it best of 3.

  19. jericoc - Oct 8, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Baseball is the one sport that plays its entire schedule in series format and they opt for a single-elimination Wild-Card Game? The Wild Card (if it must exist) should be a three-game set, as should the “Divisional” Series. The LCS should be best of five, and the WS should be best of seven.

    • albertmn - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      So, the division winners should sit around for 5-6 days waiting for the WC to get done before they can play? That would cause all kinds of other issues and people would be complaining about their favorite team having to sit while the WC teams get to keep playing and stay loose. Win your division, or win one game.

      By the way, the AL would have played out exactly the same this year regardless of rule changes. Texas and Baltimore would have had to play one game to decide who was the WC team anyway. Do you think Texas wishes they had taken care of business and closed out the A’s in the regular season?

      • albertmn - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:14 PM

        Although, if they would get rid of all of the extra “travel days” in the playoffs, they probably could fit in a WC series. Why is it that teams can play a game in the regular season, fly to a new city, and play the next night, yet in the playoffs, they need an entire day in between? It would also reward those teams with deeper rotations, rather than just one or two stud pitchers.

        Get rid of all of the extra travel days and I would be in favor of the 3 game WC series. Heck, play it over two days, making the second day a double header if a 3rd game is needed. That would still get you a 3 game series, while keeping the incentive to win your division. Play all three games in the city of the WC with the better record to keep the incentive there as well.

      • jericoc - Oct 8, 2012 at 2:25 PM

        No “sitting around”. Play the three games over three nights (or DAYS; I know, the horrors of daytime postseason baseball), our a fourth in case of rain. End the regular season on Sunday, play the WC series Mon-Tue-Wed, and start the Divisional Serieses on Friday and Saturday.

  20. albertmn - Oct 8, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    To all of those that would complain about the way the playoffs are set up, there is one thing to remember. Any playoff, in any sport, is NOT about determining the best team. It is about crowning a champion. Those are not the same thing. Were the Cardinals the best team all of 2011? No. Look to other sports as well. Would anyone claim the NY Giants were the best team through all of last NFL season? No. But, yet those teams have trophies, and those trophies declare them Champions, not “best team”.

    • atlrod - Oct 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      Which is why European soccer’s system is so good. Of course, they actually believe in (almost) pure capitalism in sport as well. Silly Europeans.

      (Waits for snide comments about soccer and Europeans.)

  21. maegreen18 - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Bravos had a great season, but one bad game that cost them the playoffs. 4th in the NL and 4 games from the Nats. It isn’t that hard to see.

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