Most seasons, on the last day, we hope for some kind of chaos to hit MLB’s playoff system. I think, deep down, it’s because people want to see the wild-card sham proven to be just that. Because having teams play a game just to play a game to get into the playoffs after 162 games and six months is pretty ridiculous. Or maybe we just all want to see something we haven’t seen before. We’ve seen play-in games to get to the wild-card. The Rays won it in 2013. But never the A-B-C method of a three-way tie or the brackets of a four-way. Maybe one day.
But we didn’t get it this year. At the end of the day, the Red Sox were playing an awful Nationals team and the Yankees couldn’t keep getting their brains beaten in by a Rays team that only had the joy of making the Yankees’ life hell on the table. And they very well may get that again anyway come Thursday. The Blue Jays really did just about all they could, and the Mariners can’t lose two of three to the Angels at home and claim they deserved much more than they got. For both teams, their time will come, probably as soon as next season.
There was a lot of grumbling, most from Toronto as is always the case, that the Jays could run up 91 wins and have the third-best run-differential in the AL, and miss the playoffs. But this playoff system has never been about being fair, and no playoff system around ever will be. They’re hardly the first good team to miss out, and not anywhere near the best. The 2015 Pirates won 98 games, and their reward was the Cy Young winner for one game. Had they played in the East, they would have won the division in a canter and then gotten to play the wild-card winner who had already burned their best starter. That’s how geography works in baseball.
If people want a fair playoff system, divide MLB back into just two leagues, have everyone play each team in their league eight times, and everyone in the other league three times, and then take the top five in each league. There. Is that ever going to happen? No, of course not. This is what we got. And it’ll probably get worse, as the new CBA will almost certainly expand the playoffs, whenever that CBA should arrive.
Perhaps we should be happy it ended so cleanly, because when baseball gets something unique it tries to manufacture it every year, which is how we ended up with this second wild-card bullshit thanks to the end of the 2011 season.
So we get Yankees-Red Sox, whether we like it or not. Another chapter in the league’s loudest rivalry. Most likely, they’re playing for the right to get horsed by the Rays, who look like the AL’s deepest team by some distance, in the first round. And then we’ll see what kind of system we have next season, if there is a next season.