Every year about this time we like to take a little break from baseball for a while. After all, it’s a long season. When you watch as many Orioles games as we do it can be tough to get yourself excited for something like today’s game of Detroit vs Oakland at 1pm on a Monday.
But honestly with each year that goes by we’re reinforced in our belief that Baseball’s playoff system is just too damn long. The playoff schedule spans 31 days encompassing all of October, and in recent years November baseball has been a very real possibility in the event of a 7 game World Series. If each series went the maximum, this year’s postseason schedule would be 43 games, not including the ‘Game 163′ that the Rays and Rangers played to determine the second AL wild card spot. Attempting to watch 43 games in a month, or even half of that at 22 is quite a lot.
So we’ve taken a pass on this year’s wild card games, and we’re planning to mostly sit out the divisional series’ as well. We might not even get serious about watching again until a team in either league has one or two LCS wins under its belt, giving us a full two week break and still allowing us to see all of the games of actual importance. But if you’re watching baseball during the wild card and LDS rounds of the playoffs, here are a few things you need to know.
The only reason the playoffs are this long is because Bud Selig is greedy. The commissioner noted when the expanded wildcard format began that MLB had the least percentage of teams making the playoffs among the major sports. So the logic was, ‘Welp, we’ll do as many as we can get away with because more games is more money.’ Baseball has been a lot like Facebook in that almost every time it changes something, it changes for the worse. If the Chop were commissioner we’d go back to two divisions per league and 86 the DH immediately.
Bud Selig’s greed kinda backfired. These games do pack stadiums, but they are on TBS because the networks won’t go near them and even ESPN and the Fox cable networks aren’t that interested in ponying up for the rights. When you add more games to the postseason, the value of the added games gets smaller and smaller the more there are. Some of these games, like today’s game in Detroit are ‘MLB Network Exclusives’ which means that even TBS would rather tell the league to go screw than cover a weekday day game.
The unbalanced schedule means not all games are created equal. This year the Red Sox were able to clinch the AL East with quite a few games to go. And since the AL East is by far the game’s strongest division, their ticket to the ALCS is all but punched. Hate to say it but it’s true. Factor in home field advantage and it’s fair to say that wild card teams have to work a whole lot harder. Some would argue that that’s as it should be, but a Pirates-Red Sox series with home field at Fenway? Get the fuck out of here.
Game announcers often don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Postseason announcers are a mixed bag. Some are awful, some were once great and now are just blathering old grandpas (looking at you Tim McCarver), and some, like Dick Stockton aren’t strictly baseball men but are professional broadcasters covering multiple sports. Even a dedicated year-round announcer can’t know the whole league by heart, and with these guys you can often catch them reading out of the media guide. Vin Scully is qualified to talk about the Dodgers. These guys? A little less qualified.
Superstars are ALWAYS overrated. There’s a joke that circulates among Orioles fans that ‘Nobody hits into a fielder’s choice like the Great Derek Jeter.’ or “Look at the way Mariano warms up and then sits back down- what a class act!” This comes from ESPN covering so much of the Yankees and falling all over themselves to fill dead air by praising their stars, and the same thing happens in the postseason far too often. We know all too well that David Ortiz can hit for power and Yasiel Puig ‘took baseball by storm.’ We heard plenty about Yoenis Cespedis at the All Star Break, thanks.
All narratives are bullshit. The MLB playoffs are a close second behind the Kentucky Derby for nonsensical human-interesty type stories of grit and redemption and winning one for the Gipper and yadda yadda yadda. Who cares if a particular player’s grandma had cancer 4 years ago? Life is hard and bad things happen all the fucking time to everybody. Baseball players are no exception.
Beards are dumb. Believe it or not it is possible to win a World Series without a single bearded player on your roster. Teams did it for about a hundred years before Brian Wilson proved he was ultimately a better beardsman than a baseball pitcher.
Towels are dumb. Towels have a place and that place is at a Steelers’ home game. The league wants things to look good on TV and wants to really hype up the fairweather fans that turn out for the postseason. So what’s it to them to order thousands of cases of cheap, threadbare towels from China to hand out at every stadium? Much like 7 Nation Army, this is football junk grafted onto baseball and has jumped the shark. The game has its own pace, and each game is different, and while the A’s fans might be justified in waving towels after a walkoff win, they’d be best kept in their pockets during the 9 innings of scoreless baseball that preceded it.
The phrase ‘in postseason history’ is absolutely meaningless. Since changing the format to LDS series’ in 1995, certain players have had many more chances to prove themselves than equally talented players in previous eras (cough, Mariano, cough). Now that we have a second wildcard, it’s even more meaningless. Baseball loves to bask in its own glorious history, but announcers seldom stop to analyze whether historical comparisons actually make sense.
Not even MLB players really care that much. The advent of social media, especially Twitter and Instagram, gives the average fan a window into players’ lives that was never before possible. And if you peek into that window for players whose seasons are over do you know what you see? You see them watching football. You see them playing with their kids and doing their charity shit and going on vacation. They’re not riveted to the TV watching every game. Most of them don’t really tune in until the late rounds.