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Calling All Angels

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Major League Baseball’s Expanded Wild Card Scheme Has Negated The Common Sense Notion That Baseball Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint And The Anaheim Angels Might Prove It Again In 2014

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

July 29, 2013 — When Major League Baseball and Bud Selig introduced the new wildcard format a few years ago, reactions were split. Some people thought it would bring more parity to the playoffs while others thought it would simply result in the better team being left out of the World Series chase almost entirely.

With the way this season is shaping up, a whole lot of people could be in the latter camp come October. That’s because, theoretically, the second-best team in all of baseball could be out of the playoff run based on the outcome of one game.

Currently, the Los Angeles Angels sit in second place in the AL West, 1.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics. Coincidentally, the Angels are also the second best team in all of baseball behind the Athletics.

That means that if the season ended today, the Angels (63-41) would face the Blue Jays (57-50) in a one game playoff. While the Angels are the vastly superior team based on record and almost every statistical category, the Blue Jays could very conceivably win that game and move on in the playoffs, leaving the Angels on the outside looking in.

The biggest upset in this format’s two-year history occured in 2012 when the 88-75 St. Louis Cardinals beat the 94-68 Atlanta Braves. That, and the even more unbalanced possibility this year, prove that this format is out of whack.

This could happen again. The Blue Jays are a powerful team, which makes them even more dangerous in a one-game playoff. One big game from Jose Bautista could end the Angels season.

I have little doubt the Angels would come out on top in a five-game series, but in a one game playoff, anything can happen.

Baseball is an endurance game, not a sprint. A season has 162 games for a reason. To have that all come down to one game is asinine. The only time a one-game playoff makes sense is when two teams end the regular season with the exact same record. It’s a unique situation that results in unparalleled drama.

Bud Selig is trying to facetiously recreate that drama with this new wildcard format to milk ratings for all they’re worth, but it just doesn’t work. Watching a team like the 2012 Braves or the Angels lose to a vastly inferior team in one game is disheartening and boring, not good theatre.

Any team can lose one game to an inferior opponent. The best team in modern history, the 1998 New York Yankees, still lost 48 games during the regular season, some against worthy opponents and some against the 63-99 Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

That’s why playoff series in MLB have historically lasted at least five games. Any team can lose one game. But, a five or seven game series is a much better way to determine a superior squad.

My beef is not with an additional playoff team, per say. But, give the teams a series to duke it out in. Letting an entire 162 game season, especially one that has been as good as the Angels’ season so far, come down to one game is ridiculous.

It could also rob fans of seeing the best player on the planet, Mike Trout, finally play in the playoffs. The deservedly Angels missed out the last few years, in no way due to Trout’s output. But now he’s putting together another MVP-quality season on a team that is finally matching that production, and he might get a one game taste of the playoffs because of a flawed system.

Mike Trout Stats
I am in no way counting the Angels out if it all comes down to a one-game playoff. But, there’s no logical reason that should be a possibility in the first place.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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