Guest Post: May the Best Team Win

Here is a Guest Post sent in by AJ:

The Atlanta Braves have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the MLB playoff format is exactly what Hank Steinbrenner, Chairman of the New York Yankees, claims it to be – a new found life for the weaker teams. The Braves reeled off 14 straight division titles and as a result of their amazing accomplishment, have only two World Series appearances and one championship ring to show for it.

As we all know, the current format allows for 3 division winners and 1 wild card (2nd place) team to qualify for each (NL and AL) league playoffs. The team that emerges as the winner of each league qualifies to play in the World Series.

In 1997, the NL wild card Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, the 2002 wild card Anaheim Angles won it all be stopping Dusty Baker‘s wild card Giants led by Barry Bonds, the 2003 wild card Florida Marlins (again) cleaned up on a strong New Your Yankee team after the Bartman-gift at Wrigley and the 2004 wild card Boston Red Sox finally broke through its Baby Ruth curse to oust the St. Louis Cardinals. This story goes on and on and on. The 2005 wild card Astros lost to the Chicago White Sox, the 2006 wild card Detriot Tigers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 2007 wild card Rockies lost to the Boston Red Sox.

There’s no question, the wild card format makes for quite an exciting ride and stirs up a lot of fan interest that otherwise would be lost during the regular season. What it doesn’t do is provide a format for the two best teams from each league to square off against each other to determine who is best team in the world. The wild card format easily points out that the MLB playoffs is not the best format for determining the best teams in baseball or for that matter the World Champions.

After re-aligning MLB to a 6 division format in 1997, this created a playoff imbalance and the wild card format was adopted as a remedy. As a result of maintaining an automatic playoff bid for 3 division winners in each conference, the MLB often finds teams with better records not qualifying for the playoffs. The NBA does it right. The top 8 records in each conference make the playoffs. The NHL has 3 divisions and three automatic bids but with 8 teams qualifying in each conference, it is virtually impossible for a team with a better record to be left behind. The NFL has its problems too.

MLB-Selig has their own idea of equity. Check this out.

American League

* 2000 : Non-playoff team Cleveland Indians (90-72) had a better record than playoff team New York Yankees + (87-74)
* 2003 : Non-playoff team Seattle Mariners (93-69) had a better record than playoff team Minnesota Twins (90-72)
* 2008 : Non-playoff team New York Yankees (89-73) had a better record than playoff team Chicago White Sox (89-74)

National League

* 1997 : Non-playoff teams Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74) and New York Mets (88-74) each had better records than playoff team Houston Astros (84-78)
* 2001 : Non-playoff team San Francisco Giants (90-72) had a better record than playoff team Atlanta Braves (88-74)
* 2005 : Non-playoff teams Philadelphia Phillies (88-74), Florida Marlins (83-79) and New York Mets (83-79) each had better records than playoff team San Diego Padres (82-80)
* 2006 : Non-playoff team Philadelphia Phillies (85-77) had a better record than playoff team St. Louis Cardinals + (83-78)
* 2007 : Non-playoff teams San Diego Padres (89-74) and New York Mets (88-74) each had a better record than playoff team Chicago Cubs (85-77)
* 2008 : Non-playoff teams New York Mets (89-73), Houston Astros (86-75), St. Louis Cardinals (86-76), and Florida Marlins (84-77) each had a better record than playoff team Los Angeles Dodgers (84-78)

I know, Bla-Bla-Bla…

Is re-alignment the answer? God only knows. If it’s true to say the best teams don’t always make the playoffs, its easy to see how the best team rarely becomes the undisputed World Champion in Major League Baseball. Back in the day, the team with the best record from the NL played the team with the best record from the AL. This was true equity. Balanced schedules, best team records for each league, no random inter-league opponents, no steroids, and no Bud Selig. Just pure baseball. What a concept. OK-not as exciting but certainly fair.

Now we live in an era that stacks the odds against any team that makes the MLB playoffs. It’s virtually a tournament of sorts. Yes, dust collectors like the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox have broken through the barrier and won their respective Championships but what about our beloved Cubs? Will they have to win 14 division titles in a row to finally crush the curse of the Billy goat?

The point is this, people. Don’t get flustered if the Cubs crumble in the playoffs like their 1st round 0-for’s in 2007 and 2008 or the Alou/Bartman/Gonzo incidents of 2003. The odds of making it through are great and even greater to actually emerge as the winner and Champion of the MLB tournament they still refer to as the World Series. You would think that any organization that has payroll in excess of $4 billion dollars would be able to come up with a good idea. Some of you may suggest the all-mighty dollar is the culprit here. …and ya know what? You would be correct.

Thanks to AJ for sending in this Guest Post!

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    April 17, 2009  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: fan comments, guest post, observations, playoffs

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