With playoff baseball rapidly approaching and the standings nearly complete, this feels like a good time to point out a flaw in the new six-team format (other than increasing the number of games per round). If you’re going to hand out first-round byes, give them to the two best teams in each league.
Right now, the Houston Astros are poised to waltz into the second round despite trailing Tampa Bay and Baltimore by 8.5 games. The Rays and Orioles are deadlocked in a battle for the AL East crown, but the bigger motivation for those two clubs is the No. 1 seed, because the loser is busted down to the No. 3 spot and an additional round of baseball.
My thinking is in the same vein as what the NBA did with its divisions. Until recently, their division winners automatically occupied the top four seeds, so when the Southwest was stacked only one of Dallas, San Antonio, Memphis, Houston, etc. would get home court in the first round. After a slight tweak, the division winners don’t matter, and it’s seeded strictly by record, because close to half of the NBA makes the postseason, and its regular season really is pointless.
However, in MLB, divisions would still matter, as I’m not saying seed the bracket by best record. The AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins have the seventh-best mark in the AL, and if I wanted to be a righteous nihilist about it, I’d propose correcting that, too.
Seeing as I’m not Karl Hungus, I agree divisions mean something because baseball fans worship things like dirt, and divisions are definitely on that sentimental list. Simply give the second-best club — regardless of if it won the division — a bye.
The Rays and Orioles are guaranteed a playoff spot, so neither would oust a deserving team. In this scenario, the Astros still get home-field advantage, but they aren’t two series away from the World Series. I know Yankee fans, and baseball followers in general, would appreciate a tougher path for the ‘Stros, and I think AL East supporters would even admit that Baltimore fans at least deserve a bye.
There’s always this emphasis on preserving the meaningfulness of baseball’s grueling 162-game schedule, and my fix is in the spirit of that however nonsensical all of this may seem even by baseball argument standards.
The other reality of what I’m suggesting is it would inevitably benefit top-heavy divisions like the AL East, and NL West, and if I may appeal to Rob Manfred for a second, don’t you want better chances of the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, or Giants making the World Series?
Perhaps if the league office was focused on perfecting its new playoff system, and not debuting a virtual ballpark, they would’ve been a little quicker on the uptake. But, no, by all means, Rob, go play trivia on a headset and promote anything but watching the games.
Sorry, that’s a tangent for a future article. Back to ripping Manfred for the playoff system. Actually, I think I wrung the vitriol out of that rag, so, umm, yeah, suck it, Rob.
Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner is taking over the reins of the Crimson Tides offense, and Jalen Milroe is back to holding a clipboard. Nick Saban’s leash is as short as his temper, and he’s onto Plan B, which is pairing Buchner with new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who also came over from South Bend.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the transfer portal is the QB carousel. We know about players like Sam Hartman who upgraded to the Irish, but Notre Dame was really high on Buchner before his 2022 season was disrupted by injury. This is a big spot on a talented roster, and most of these college quarterbacks are so young that a tweak in coaching or system could unlock the game for them.
My guess is Buchner does a good enough job that Milroe becomes a free agent after the season, and there’s absolutely a coach out there salivating at his skill set, and better equipped to maximize it.