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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice Per Day

If you are among the dozens of loyal readers and/or sympathetic friends that read The Daily Hat Trick regularly, I need not tell you how I feel about Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. He has been a TDHT favorite whipping boy throughout the history of the blog. Selig’s rare brand of cluelessness, callousness, incompetence, aloofness, and apathy about the demands of the average fan is legendary.

Even so, the man has had more lives than a cat. When it was announced, in 2010, that his contract was set to expire before this season and that he would (likely) retire, I thought we would be rid of this nincompoop by now. Yet he has stuck around to spite John Q. Fan, regardless.


In spite of my continued expression of contempt for Selig's administration of Major League Baseball, I have always said that he got it right with the playoffs (and the 1994 realignment that facilitates the modern MLB playoff structure). Prior to the 1995 MLB Playoffs, Major League Baseball had 28 teams in four divisions. Only the four division winners reached the playoffs.

The old structure, in such a large sports entity, had a number of undesirable consequences that were out of line with the demands of the late 20th century American sports spectator. The majority of MLB teams were out of postseason contention shortly after the All-Star Game, reducing the significance of a substantial portion of the regular season to exhibition games on the record. A single significant injury could torpedo the season of an otherwise viable contender. Finally, the fewer divisions in each league contributed to greater and more concentrated scheduling inequity.

The three division structure and the Wild Card changed all of that. The majority of MLB teams typically have a dog in the “hunt for October” during the month of September. More regular season games have more significance. More playoff games with more meaning/impact per pitch (with a best of five first round structure) were available for the baseball fan’s consumption. In short, the game was made profoundly and permanently better.

This was the sight at many an MLB park in late July before realignment and the Wild Card. 1


Of course, Selig added the second Wild Card qualifier to each league and a single elimination Wild Card game to each league. It pains me to give this man credit, but the move was absolutely brilliant. It placed a very heavy emphasis on the importance of a team winning a division outright.

Gone is the (seemingly) annual tradition of two out of the same three American League East teams – the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Boston Red Sox – playing with very little sense of urgency in late September because two of those teams were often running away with the two best records in the league; the result being no consequences for the division runner up except for having one less home game in a best-of-five first round series (which often ended in four or fewer games). Now, all but the most lowly and hapless of cellar dwellers and losing organizations are figuratively in the ball park heading into the September stretch. Division leaders in divisions with strong records had to play hard until the final day(s) of the regular season or risk a single win or go home game. It is “unfair”? It’s cold, but it’s fair and it is great for the collective fans of the game.

The Orioles got to continue a 90+ win season thanks to the additional Wild Card spot. 2


So what has the first season of four round MLB Playoffs brought us? A two time defending pennant winner, the Texas Rangers, took its foot off the gas in September was eliminated, in one day, from any chance of a third consecutive American League championship while their Cinderella opponent, the Baltimore Orioles; they will play the Yankees in a Game 4 tonight.

The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who came close to circling the drain in September, rose to the occasion when the chips were down, clinched the second Wild Card berth in the final week of the season, and beat the favored Atlanta Braves at Atlanta in the career finale of a future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. They are now on the brink of picking up their “never say die” theme from the 2011 playoffs, which led them to their world championship. The Cardinals are one game away from eliminating the upstart Washington Nationals (whom the Cards play this afternoon).

The very hot Oakland A’s, who rallied from 13 games back in the A.L. West to win the division on the final day of the regular season, rallied from a two games to none deficit to force the very star-studded and talented Detroit Tigers to a deciding Game 5 tonight. And the Cincinnati Reds, possibly the best team in baseball from top to bottom, were forced into a Game 5 by the San Francisco Giants by the Giants taking two straight on the road after losing the first two games at home. The deciding game between the Giants and Reds is just underway, in the second inning, with no score.

Oakland Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp robs Prince Fielder of a homerun in Game 3 of the ALDS. The Tigers likely would have won otherwise and swept the A's from the playoffs. The two teams play a deciding Game 5 tonight. 3


Foul balls will be called fair. Outs will be called safe. Perfect games will be taken away. No hitters will be awarded to the undeserving. The absence of a salary cap will ensure that some teams have a limitless competitive window while others need to be magicians in scouting and accounting to have a prayer of reaching the postseason. An All-Star exhibition will tip the home field advantage in a World Series in which half of the players involved know that they have no realistic chance of seeing without a ticket or a television. But for the playoffs, Bud got this one right.

Bud's explanation for ridiculous MLB rules: "It's in the book!" What do you want him to do? (smh) 4

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