Dor do you accept the results of the 2022 playoffs? This isn’t some obtuse political metaphor, it’s a conversation being had in some circles after three teams that won more than 100 games in the regular season fell to theoretically inferior squads in the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s a big debut for baseball’s new postseason format that strikes many fans, particularly eliminated teams, as fundamentally unfair.
It started with the New York Mets, who had 101 wins and didn’t even make it to the NL Division Series. Forced to play the San Diego Padres in a recently established three-game Wild Card series, the Mets managed to win just one playoff game. The Atlanta Braves, despite earning a bye after single beating the Mets for the NL East title didn’t fare much better. They managed to get as many postseason wins as the Mets, losing 3-1 in the NLDS to the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished 14 games behind both teams in the NL East standings.
However, even these failures don’t compare to the plight of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who finished a 111-51 regular season (the fourth-highest total in MLB history) that put them as the top seed in the National League. On a rare rain-soaked Saturday night in San Diego, the Padres pulled off a stunning victory over their favorite foes to complete a 3-1 NLDS win. Those are the same Padres who finished 22 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. In just four playoff games, the Padres made a huge regular-season gap pointless.
Given these results, what exactly is the point of the regular season if three of your top four teams (on paper) haven’t even come close to the World Series? (The Houston Astros, for the record, easily handled the Seattle Mariners, happy to be there.) The first complaints were aimed squarely at MLB’s expanded postseason format, which now includes three wild-card teams in each league, two of which, the Phillies and Padres, will now play for a World Series spot.
Of course, those who remember the plight of the 2001 Seattle Mariners know that such unfair results also occurred in the “three division winners, one wild card team” format of the recent past. Those Mariners, led by Ichiro Suzuki, tied the MLB record for wins in a single season after going 116-46. By losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, they became the only MLB team to win more than 110 games and not play in a World Series until, of course, the Dodgers didn’t even play. they managed to reach the Championship Series this year.
So, there is a precedent here. Not counting the Covid-shortened year of 2020, the last MLB team with the best regular-season record to win the World Series was the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Before that, it had happened just 12 times since 1969, the start of the divisional era.
Contrast this with the NFL and the NBA, leagues where a single player, whether he’s an elite quarterback in football or a Michael Jordan/LeBron James type in basketball, can be a deciding factor in the form in that a dominant starting pitcher (who usually just plays every game). five games) or a Barry Bonds (who never won a ring) can never do it. Since 1975, the top seed in the NFC or AFC has won 25 of 46 Super Bowls, though it’s hard to compare the NFL’s single-elimination playoffs to the MLB postseason. In the NBA, which is a closer comparison, the results are less decisive: Since the 1999-00 season, only seven No. 1 seeds overall have won championships.
Perhaps the biggest controversy shouldn’t be about who got eliminated but who moved on. Before Saturday, two teams that had won fewer than 90 games in an unshortened regular season I had never been to meet in an LCS. It seems that this happened immediately after MLB extended the playoffs is not a total coincidence.
This may explain the criticism: The Padres and Phillies, seen from an angle, look unworthy of advancing. They are, on paper, teams beating more qualified candidates but only within the context of a relatively miniscule sample size of five games. To quote Defector’s David J Roth, this makes no sense, “in a way that would probably satisfy someone who wanted to see the most deserving teams advance to the postseason in an orderly fashion.”
The playoffs, he points out, don’t work like that. They haven’t since the World Series was decided between the team with the best record in the American League and its counterpart in the National League. MLB will never go back to that format – it would mean too many fan bases with nothing to root for in mid-summer and, more importantly as far as owners are concerned, too much money left on the table thanks to all those postseason games. not played.
So the MLB playoffs, no matter how they’re constructed, will be like life: messy, chaotic and deeply unfair to most of us. If there is a solution, the answer might be for us to rethink the winner-takes-all mentality that has sucked so much of the fun out of sports. It is we, ultimately, who have devalued the regular season by prioritizing championships above all else. Those 111 Dodgers wins aren’t fading away just because they failed to win the World Series, even if their fans feel that way immediately after the NLDS.
Playoff success, perhaps, shouldn’t be treated as the only way to measure a team’s worth of the year. There is no objective reason to treat the 2001 Mariners season as any less of an accomplishment than the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who went 83-78 in the regular season before stumbling their way to an inexplicable victory in the World Series. To think that only the rings matter is to argue that 29 of the 30 MLB teams fail each year, that’s a dismal prospect for anything, let alone the games people play.
It’s time to break out of that pattern. Unless, of course, the team you’re rooting for wins a title. So obviously they are the best team ever put together and no one has the right to say otherwise.
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