Postseason baseball, the joy of October. Where dreams are made, heroes are forged, and legends are born. But for teams who have come up against the St. Louis Cardinals over the past couple of postseasons, it’s where nightmares begin.
The Cardinals have shown that even the teams who just narrowly get into the postseason can make a run, and bring home the rings. So does that mean that our current playoff system is working as planned, or is hopelessly flawed?
Your answer to that question will vary greatly depending on whether you are a traditionalist or a modernist when it comes to the game of baseball.
The traditionalist says that only division winners belong in the playoffs. The reward for playing a grueling 162 game season and winning that division is that you get to play postseason baseball against other teams that reached the same pinnacle that your team did.
The traditionalist thinks there are no points for second place. You win the most games, you get home field advantage. It all boils down to working hard to win in the regular season.
The traditionalist scoffs at the wild card, and says that even though it brings a little more drama to the end of the season for some teams, it causes nothing but chaos and undue punishment to teams that got into the playoffs by the sheer will of winning their division.
Most of all, the traditionalist thinks the idea of a one-game playoff to basically bring a culmination of an entire season for one team is absolutely ludicrous in it’s conception.
The modernist loves the expanded playoff format and the thrill of having longer pennant chases in the regular season, combined with getting to see more playoff baseball including teams you may normally never see playing into late October and November.
The modernist thinks that it shouldn’t matter if you are a wild card team or the team that won the most games during the regular season, you still have to play a series against another playoff opponent. All you have to do is win…not whine.
The modernist has his finger on the pulse of the final few week’s records from the regular season, and loves all the nuances involved with trying to decide a pitching rotation dependent on whether or not you have to play a single game playoff, or if you get a few extra days rest.
Most of all, the modernist is in love with the idea that an underdog team who slid into the final wild card spot on the last day of the season can eventually have a magical 4 weeks of baseball that ends in a huge screaming dog-pile in the middle of the diamond.
There are certainly arguments to be made either way, but whether you are a traditionalist or a modernist, it would be my guess that the wild card system is here to stay. We’ll all just have to live with it.
Now if we could only get rid of that pesky designated hitter nonsense.