MLB owners have been dead set on rewarding their own mediocrity, because the larger economy and society as a whole has basically been set up to reward shitfucks like them for barely being able to remain upright, and intaking oxygen. The expansion of the playoffs was meant to get more money from TV companies for more playoff games while simultaneously making it less strenuous to build teams who could play in those playoff games. And for the second year in a row, most likely to the absolute glee of owners who would rather cut off a toe than push the payroll whether they meant it, or not, it appears that finishing lower in the standings while barely clearing the line for the wildcards is the place to be.
Last year, it shaped up that the #6 seeds in each league, or the third wildcards, got to open their playoffs with a three-game series against the dumbfuck teams that somehow landed atop the pile in both Central divisions. It worked a treat for the Phillies, who sat back, and let the Cardinals throw up all over themselves much like their fans spend four days a week doing. It didn’t go so well for the Rays, who just decided to stop scoring against Cleveland, and went home. Meanwhile, the Jays and Mets, genuinely better teams than their wildcard opponents, both ate it at home to still very good teams in the Mariners, and Padres, respectively. Both were essentially punished for being better over the 162 than the Phillies or Rays. Now you could make the argument that all of these teams should have been good enough to avoid the wildcard round altogether and win their divisions, but ask the Dodgers, and Braves how that worked out.
It’s shaping up to be even more the case this season, because somehow the Central divisions got worse. Whereas last year Cleveland could at least boast a pretty dynamite rotation and bullpen that ended up stymying Tampa’s offense, this year their rotation is beset by injuries and mediocrity. The Twins do have a pretty good rotation (6th in ERA) but couldn’t bust open a pinata that was still on the ground if they weren’t blindfolded.
The less said about the NL Central the better, where the Brewers look most likely to be doing the “DE-FAULT! DE-FAULT!” dance when the season is over, thanks to the Reds having exactly no pitching, the Cubs utter bewilderment at what it is they’re supposed to be doing, and the aforementioned Cardinal vomit. And folks, the Brewers are not good.
So at the moment, the Baltimore Orioles, the second or third-best team in the AL at the moment, are staring down a three-game dumb-apalooza against Toronto or Houston or Boston, or New York, while the worst of those teams that’s able to clear the line will get three games in Minneapolis against the Twins. Over in the NL, whoever loses biggest in the NL West that’s been spicy as hell all season is probably licking their chops over a three-day stay in Milwaukee rather than dealing with the Diamondbacks or Dodgers or Giants or Marlins or possibly Phillies.
It’s baseball, and anything can happen in a three-game series, and certainly, the Brewers or Twins, or Cleveland can win two of three games against anyone. But as we sit here today, if teams were allowed to pick their opponent, those teams would be top of the wishlist.
MLB may come to fix this whenever they get around to expansion, though knowing how things work in Rob Manfred’s world, they’ll almost certainly fuck that up too. The best option, if we’re going to continue to have a keg-party policy on letting teams into the postseason, would be four divisions of eight teams, with the top three going to the playoffs, and the division winners getting the bye. Eight-team divisions, most seasons at least, would tend to wash away the mediocre from the top. For instance, the Twins would be buried behind the Rangers or Astros in an AL West with eight teams, Cleveland would be distant in the rearview of the Rays, and Orioles in the AL East. Whether the Brewers were in an eight-team NL West or East, they wouldn’t be anywhere near the Dodgers or Braves.
Of course, what Manfred will do is probably opt for eight four-team divisions which will let some truly piss-poor teams into the playoffs, because everyone needs to copy the NFL even though no one can. Catch the fever.