It would sound like sour grapes if I voiced my opinion on this topic after the Braves played, especially if they lost. So I’m going to say it now.
This year’s postseason format, put in place by Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, is absolutely comical.
Of course it’s a money grab — one more way to get a better bottom line at the end of the year. Of course it’s a desperate attempt to wrestle attention away from college and professional football.
And of course it’s going to end up screwing over the teams that had a great season.
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Just look at the first Wild Card game. When the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals take the field Friday evening, you’ll see a frantic pace in a one-game playoff that used to be reserved for two teams that were tied at the end of the season. This year, instead of being used as a tiebreaker, it will be a way for a team like the Cardinals, who weren’t in the same atmosphere as the Braves for the last several weeks of the season, to squeak out one win and steal the Braves’ ticket to the playoffs.
It’s baseball — one game is minuscule, and anything can happen.
What used to be the most prestigious postseason is losing its grip, and it’s Selig’s fault for allowing that to happen. Before this season, only four teams made the playoffs from each league. Now, five teams qualify — 33 percent of the league’s clubs. It’s hardly even tough; nearly every competent team made the playoffs this year.
Bad call, Mr. Selig.
And no, I’m not a complete homer. Because there was another rule change I can’t stand, and it could actually benefit the Braves. In the Divisional Series (the round that follows the Wild Card games, when we’re down to four teams in each league), the team with the lower seed gets to host the first two games. Then, the final three games of the best-of-five series (if necessary) will be played at the stadium of the team with the better record.
So the better team is expected to return home in an 0-2 hole, needing a three-game sweep against a playoff-caliber team just to stay alive. The momentum is slaughtered if the lower-seeded team holds serve at home in Games 1 and 2.
It seems like Selig just wants chaos with these rule changes, and I’d prefer to see the lower seeds earn their way to the next round. Momentum is such a huge part of baseball, and if I were a fan of a team with the higher seed, I’d want to see them hosting Games 1 and 2 and then a Game 5, if needed. There’s no reward to back-loading a series with home games if you’re already down 0-2.
Like I said, anything can happen in one game. And it stinks that the Braves have to fight through that uncertainty just to qualify for the real tournament. They’ve played far too well this year to have it left up to chance.