League Championship Series
The American and National League Championship series are upon us. Oakland vs. Detroit and New York vs. St. Louis. The A's have the home field advantage in the ALCS even though they didn't have it in the ALDS. The Mets, who were the only favorites to win last week, retain home field advantage in the NLCS.
There will be no predictions this time around. Not gonna go there again. No need to embarrass everyone - including myself - a second time. Once is enough.
If there was a lesson to be learned in the Division Series, it is this: Any MLB team can beat any other MLB team in a short series. Period. Better yet, put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence. And, while we're at it, let's put it all in caps and in bold and in a larger font size.
Now that proclamation doesn't mean that "any MLB team will beat any other MLB team in a short series." There is a big difference. I'm not saying that the inferior team *will* win; rather, I'm saying that the inferior team *may* win. Everybody needs to remember that simple tenet. You. Me. The New York media. George Steinbrenner. Every. Body.
This isn't 1968. Bob Gibson and Mickey Lolich are retired. The Chicago Seven is nothing more than the Cubs starting rotation. And the Oakland Raiders sure as heck aren't going to be in the Super Bowl this year.
For the past 38 years. . .err. . .For 37 of the past 38 years, baseball has traded quality for quantity. More is better. More teams. More divisions. More series. More this. More that.
What were they thinking when they came up with the idea of the wild card? After a 162-game season, teams that did not win their division get another chance to win their league and win the World Series? What a country! Step right up! Everybody's a winner. Give everybody a participation trophy while we're at it. Nobody goes home a loser. (I can hear Jay Stewart now, telling the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that their consolation prize is the #1 pick in the June draft.)
The bottom line is that the postseason is no longer what it once was. Teams no longer play 154 or 162 games to determine who wins the pennant and goes to the World Series. Today, teams play nearly every day for six months so baseball can determine which EIGHT teams make the playoffs, including two clubs that weren't even good enough to beat out teams in their own division!
As a result of this more egalitarian system, the best teams no longer wind up in the World Series. In fact, wild cards have advanced to the Fall Classic in each of the past four years and five of the last six. The wild cards even won three championships in a row, including one in which both teams made it in through the back door.
2005: Chicago White Sox in four games over the Houston Astros*
* denotes wild card
Makes you want to put down some money on the Tigers, huh?
The whole point is that **** happens in the postseason. Teams with home field advantage can and do lose. Underdogs can and do win. Wild cards have as good of a chance to win as anyone else. Billy Beane was - and is - right: The playoffs are a crapshoot. Nothing less. Nothing more.
Oh, sure, you've got to get there. I understand that. But once you're there, the nature of the beast (five and seven game series) is such that any MLB team can beat any other MLB team in a short series. Period. Exclamation point.