ARLINGTON TX : MLB commisioner Bud Selig talks with the media at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
You can't believe the extra playoff spots are actually happening, and neither can any of your internet friends. This is because you live in an baseball-nerd bubble.
I'm a baseball nerd. I was the guy who had trouble enjoying Moneyball because Ted Lilly wasn't mentioned in the Carlos Pena trade scenario. I know that at least two Jeff D'Amicos exist, and that they've shared a profession. I know more Amos Otis anecdotes than most people. You're probably in the club, too. That's why you're here right now.
Major League Baseball isn't making decisions for us. We're in; we're hooked. Without baseball, we'd be curled in a fetal position every spring. We'd try to learn the rules of cricket by playing free online Flash games, and we'd eventually throw our computers out of a window, sobbing and writhing on the ground. MLB has our money. They'll probably take more. I should just send them a few $20s in the mail this offseason to save some time.
When Bud Selig says there are going to be two more playoff spots starting in 2013, he's saying it because it will make more money for Major League Baseball. They've studied it and re-studied it, paid expensive people for their expensive opinions, and listened to the opinions of television people who pay them a lot of money. They've concluded that two extra one-game playoffs will make a ton of money. The money will come from us, partly, but it will also come from the casual and moderate baseball fans who greatly outnumber us. Doesn't matter what we think, nor should it. We've proven that we're suckers. The extra playoff games aren't for us.
And I'm not complaining or anything, but baseball has a really, really, really, really, really, really long regular season. Like, really, really long. One-hundred-and-sixty-two games, even. So many. There are peaks and valleys, mountains and canyons, Mariano Riveras and Ruben Riveras. Each month has its own narrative. A devastating loss in May is devastating because it can be the difference between making the playoffs or not.
At first, the extra playoff spots will seem exciting. It will be a cynical, manufactured excitement, but the games will still be elimination baseball. It will be quirky stuff, with balks, muffed double plays, and blown calls deciding the playoff fates of four teams. It will be great baseball. And it will be a horrible way to decide which team is better. From Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:
Here's a little research for your scrutiny. I calculated which teams would have won each league's second wild-card for each of the last 16 seasons. Here are the win totals for those 32 teams: 84, 85, 85, 85, 86, 86, 87, 87, 87, 88, 88, 88, 88, 88, 88, 89, 89, 89, 89, 89, 89, 90, 90, 90, 90, 91, 91, 92, 93, 93, 93, 96.
Look at all those sub-90 win teams. Looooooook at them. After watching your team scrap and claw for 162 games, it could all come down to a single game against a team with 84 wins. Maybe the only reason they have that many wins is because they have Felix Hernandez. And, say, look who is starting the one-game playoff! Good luck with that.
You'll care because you were around for the 162 games. The casual and moderate fans? They checked in every once in a while, but they didn't pay attention all that much, and, say, is that an elimination playoff game? This isn't for you; this is for the majority. Just wait until there's a situation like the 2006 NL West, where the Padres and Dodgers tied for the division lead. Would they have a one-game playoff to see who goes to the one-game playoff? Would they have a tiebreaker already built in, like head-to-head record? Either way is pretty gross.
The guy in your office who never talked about baseball until the local team was in the playoffs, though? He's stoked. He scored tickets from this guy his father-in-law knows, and he's going to meet up with some buddies beforehand. Following 162 games is for masochists, but checking out a playoff game? Totally worth it. Those games mean something.
As a single tear rolls down your cheek, you'll watch. You'll debate who should start the game. You'll complain that Manager X did something stupid, and that Manager Y brought in the wrong pitcher at the wrong time. You'll marvel at the athleticism of Mike Moustakas or Cameron Maybin. Mostly because the Royals and Padres are totally making the playoffs every year now. Everyone makes the playoffs! Here's a ribbon for you! And you get a ribbon! Everyone gets a ribbon!
And you'll watch it every year. You were going to anyway.