Think you've got it? If you guessed "Emaline" by Ben Folds Five, you're right! You don't really win much, though.
Anyway, aside from welcoming Germany as within my international grasp, I wanted to write about this new MLB playoff system. See that picture of a straining Bud Selig over there? That's him pretending he can't hear the many multitudes of people saying "This is a bad idea." It's unfortunate, but there was nothing that was going to deter this from happening.
If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, MLB approved another wildcard team being added this year. The way this is going to work is a one-game playoff between these two wild card teams, and then we go into the usual playoff format. Mostly, anyway. Instead of 2-2-1, the divisional round is now 2-3 to cut down on travel and time. Whatever, that part doesn't bother me too much.
But why just a one game playoff to decide who the best non-division winner is? We already have that. It's called the previous 162 games. If the Braves and Red Sox deserved to be in the playoffs last year, all they had to do was win one more game. They didn't, so they were left crying in their collective beer.
Beyond making more money (both off attendance and TV), I also think this is Selig's* way of guaranteeing all the drama we've had at the end of the past few seasons. We've had a few game 163s. The two I remember recently were both in the AL Central, first with the White Sox and Twins, and then with the Tigers and Twins. There might have been the Rockies and Padres, too, but that may have also been game 162 that just happened to carry the same implications.** And then, of course, was one of the greatest days in MLB history on the final day of last year, when both the Braves and Red Sox completed their collapses. Not to be lost in that was the Cardinals and Rays doing their parts to avoid a 163rd game in pretty dramatic fashion.
*And I have to say, I actually think Bud Selig is probably the best commissioner in sports today. I've generally agreed with all he's decided other than making the All-Star Game count. I don't like replay in baseball, but that was a train he couldn't stop, so I appreciate that he's kept it limited. Maybe that's how I'll feel about this new wildcard spot in a few years, but I doubt it. The lead up to this was much, much different than the runway into replay.
**Also, I still don't think Matt Holliday has touched home in Denver, though I was kinda pulling for the Rockies to make the playoffs.
I do agree with what the commissioner's actions have said. Those were great, great moments for baseball, chock full of drama and intrigue. The problem is, as soon as you institutionalize them, they are no longer dramatic. If you script the drama every year, it ceases to be dramatic. I do think the most important part of what made those moments so tense, so enthralling, was just how organically they happened. Neither of those collapses were seen coming in fashion. And there was no rule change forced in to make sure the last games were so tense. They sprung up in the existing framework.
Sorry, Bud, but you can't force those moments by a sham of a game to see who wins the wild card. The example I heard on MLB earlier today was from a former A's player (didn't catch who it was, unfortunately) who used the example of the 2001 A's. They won 102 games that year, which is usually enough to run away with a division. But, of course, that was the year the Mariners exploded for 116 wins. If the new rules were in place, the A's would have had to earn their playoff berth against an 85-win Twins team. Now, 85 wins is fine, that's a good year. But it would have been outrageous if they were allowed to go to the playoffs over the A's because of the results of a contrived "must win" game. And, if you follow baseball at all, you know it isn't like most other sports. It's true in any sport, actually, but even more so in baseball. Any team can beat any other team in a given day. That's why there's so much emphasis on series in baseball. Because the cream will eventually rise to the top, but it can take some time. Unlike, say, football.
This new format just goes against everything baseball has been for the past century and quarter or so, and I imagine the first time we come up with a situation like would have happened in 2001 and whoever is in the Twins' shoes wins, this format is going to go up in smoke. We can only hope.