For all talk about post-season expansion, the current format has held up very well this year, if the idea is to create a flashy, close race at the end of the season.
Baseball’s regular season closed with a flourish—the New York Yankees and Boston both won their last at-bats to wrap up the playoff spots.
And for a while it seemed that there might be even more excitement.
The final day began with four teams in a mix of two American League wild cards—all of them within games of each other—and the top two teams in baseball fighting for the NL West title. For all talk of post-season expansion, the current format has been great this year, if the idea is to create a compelling, close race at the end of the season.
Consider what this year’s standings would have produced if baseball had a 14-team postseason with four wild cards per league. In AL, seventh-placed Seattle went four games ahead of eighth-placed Oakland. There’s no race to finish, and the fight for the No. 1 seed (and a first-round bye) would have comfortably gone to Tampa Bay.
In the NL, the Giants and Dodgers would have fought until the end to finish the top seed, the same way they did for the division title. Seventh-placed Philadelphia finished three games ahead of San Diego’s sub-500 team.
What makes negotiations about post-season expansion difficult is that it is difficult to build a consensus on what the playoff format should aim for. Is it to reward the best teams? Is it to keep more teams in the race? Is this supposed to create an exciting ending to the regular season for Neutral fans?
The 106-win Dodgers, who finished a game behind San Francisco in the NL West, will now face St. Louis in a single-elimination position. Meanwhile, 88-win Atlanta goes straight to the Division Series. It may have sounded unfair, but the current playoff format made the NL West race crucial and forced both the Dodgers and Giants to play crucial games until the end.
Those are the types of tradeoffs that need to be considered.
The Red Sox host the Yankees in an AL wild-card game on Tuesday. It will be the first time those rivals have played a winner-take-all matchup since their one-game tiebreaker for the 1978 AL East title in Boston. Bucky Dent famously hit a big home run for New York, but there were also two other homers in that game, both by Hall of Famers. who killed them?
Brandon Lowe won three times in Tampa Bay’s 12-2 win over the Yankees on Saturday. This was the 100th win of the year for the Rays, the first time they have reached that milestone.
return of the week
Colorado conceded seven runs in the third innings at Arizona on Friday night. It was still 7-0 in the sixth when Rocky rallied with his six runs. He then scored three runs in the ninth and went on to win 9–7. According to Baseball Savant, Colorado at one time had a 0.9% chance of winning.
It was one of 110 losses this season for Arizona, ending with Baltimore for the worst record in the majors.
Every out was big for the Yankees in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Tampa Bay that wrapped up their playoff spot. Shortstop Gio Ursella caught a foul popup at full speed after a long run in the sixth inning, and his momentum saw him step down the Rays’ dugout. He held the ball for out and remained in play for some time, although he was eventually replaced.
general knowledge answer
Carl Yastrzemsky and Reggie Jackson.
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