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Bud's Pick: "One-and-Done" Wild Card game, Stark Realities for Red Sox

As the experts pick through the details of Bud’s new Playoffs’ format, who knows what they might pull out; but, on the face of it, there are already new implications for the Red Sox and, if you think it’s all good news, we can tell you it’s not.

Remember when winning the division was “ho…hum…”; whether the Red Sox or the Yankees finished with the AL East pennant, the other team always got the consolation prize, the Wild Card slot.  Not anymore: listen:


“No more Septembers in which the Yankees and Red Sox turn potentially classic division races into glorified spring training games because both teams know they’re going to make the playoffs.” [Jayson Stark]*

Perhaps ironically, the Red Sox would have been saved from last September’s Swoon, if this new playoff scheme had been in place; the Sox would have faced the Rays in a one-game, sudden season stopper. [and would have filled the Cardiac wards all over Boston]

Moreover, the new rules would have resulted in that same one-game scenario for the Sox in the past four years in the AL Eas

YEAR         1ST WC              2ND WC
2011         Rays (91)             Red Sox (90)
2010       Yankees (95)        Red Sox (89)
2009       Red Sox (95)    Rangers (87)
2008       Red Sox (95)        Yankees (89)*

Thus, in 2009, the Red Sox (95 Ws) could have lost their pennant and World Series’ chances in a single game to the Rangers (87 Ws); even though they had eight more wins. So, this new format will create some howling by losing fans about Bud’s “One-and-Done” madness.

For example:

“I’m not a second-place guy or a third-place guy…For me, personally, you shouldn’t get nothing for [finishing] second or third… [Phillies mgr. Charlie Manuel]

And, here’s another twist in the Bud plan:

“… if the wild-card team’s whole season is about to ride on one game, wouldn’t that team HAVE to run its best starter out there to pitch that game? Of course — unless the manager really loves living dangerously.” [Jayson Stark]*

And, if a Wild Card team must “use its ace just to survive, it becomes impossible to bring that pitcher back twice in the division series. So the days of riding one great starter to an LDS upset might be just about over.” [Jayson Stark]*

Stark provides a thorough analysis of the new plan* and says he likes the thrill of Bud’s “One-and-Done/October Madness” Wild Card drama:

“We still can’t wait for those wild-card games. You can’t beat the drama of a win-or-go-home game — in any sport. So try to envision how riveting it would be to begin the postseason with a game of that magnitude.”

“One game — with the entire season riding on it.

It’s March Madness with bats and balls.”

True, but it is reducing the baseball season’s marathon metaphor to a “Madness Moment,” like the shootout at a hockey game, the last 15 seconds of a close NBA game, or the two-possession NFL rule to win a Super Bowl.

What is good for television ratings may not be in the best interests of the game of baseball, where success is meant to be prove over the course of a long season that allows the luck and errors and quirks to become overwhelmed by the statistical probabilities of 162 games.

Due to its very nature as the half-year sport, it allows water to seek its own level; it allows the most talented team to start off with an 0 and 12 record to right itself and go into the last month of the season with the best W-L record in baseball. And, sadly, it is long enough for that same team to lose its playoff chances in that same month.

But remember, Sox fans, it also allowed time for the 1967 “Impossible Dream” to come true with one of the most memorable finishes in baseball history; the AL pennant race went to the very last game, with Boston (92-70) beating out the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins by 1 game and allowing the Sox to return to the World Series, after a 21-year absence.

Stark also notes that rushing this format into place for this season will create a one-time quirk: teams with home-field advantage open on the road with a 2 away/3 home format. Beginning in 2013, the schedule gnomes will have sufficient time to return to the previous 2-2-1 format, where the statistically better team can start and end at home.

But, however you divide the 5-game playoff, it is still two games too short. If it takes seven games in the World Series for the better team to win; the same number of games should apply to all levels of the post-season playoffs.

Sure, with the 2012 World Series scheduled to start on October 24th, it seems crazy to add two more games to each playoff level. But, we would propose shortening the regular season to accommodate a rounds of playoffs with seven games each to make it more likely, statistically, that the better team plays in the World Series.

To start, you circle the date on your calendar you want to play the 7th game of the World Series; say, October 15th and work backwards to April 15th and see how many games will fit. [for a full explanation, see previous article: http://bosoxinjection.com/2012/03/02/new-playoff-format-adds-2-wild-cards-but-bud-we-get-a-better-deal/]

If you are still leaning toward Bud’s “Manic Moment” one-game playoff scheme, we submit a moment in a one-game playoff in 1978, when a shortstop with a career HR average of 3.3 per season, blooped a lucky “fly ball OUT to left” for a home run at Fenway; “Lucky Bucky” didn’t hit it hard enough to make a Dent. Is that the way you want your six months of dedication to your Sox to end in future playoffs?

Bud, it is in the best interests of the game of baseball to be sure that the regular season remain significant, that the World Series be completed before mid-October, that the playoffs be of sufficient length to allow talent to trump chance, that the pace and rhythm of the game be allowed a marathon course to play out its delicate balance, where, to paraphrase, luck is merely the residue of talent and skill.

Bud, you cannot reduce the long summer’s flying flocks of games to a single skeet shot.

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For those who have already acquired a free 2012 at the hardware store, here’s your 2012 Playoff and World Series’ calendar:
Wed., Oct. 3: Last day of regular season.
Thurs., Oct. 4: Off day (left free for tiebreakers, weather makeups, etc.).
Fri., Oct. 5: Wild-card games in each league.
Sat., Oct. 6: One LDS in each league begins — the series matching the No. 2 seed versus the No. 3 seed (i.e., the matchup that doesn’t involve the wild-card teams). The No. 3 seed would play the first two games at home.
Sun., Oct. 7: Game 1 of the other division series — the series involving the No. 1 seeds versus the wild-card survivors — beginning (pay attention now) at the home field of the WILD CARDS. Also on this day: Game 2 of the other two series.
Mon., Oct. 8: Game 2 of the 1-versus-4 division series, again at the home of the wild-card teams.
Tue., Oct. 9: Game 3 of the 2-versus-3 LDS. (The No. 2 seed, the team with “home-field advantage,” will be home for Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary.)
Wed., Oct. 10: The No. 1 seeds finally go home to host Game 3 of their LDS against the wild cards. (As with the other series, Games 3, 4 and 5 will be played in the ballpark of the higher seed.) Also that day: Game 4 of the other LDS (if necessary).
Thurs., Oct. 11: Game 5 of one set of LDS/Game 4 of the other (if necessary).
Fri., Oct. 12: Game 5 of the 1-versus-4 LDS (if necessary).
Sat., Oct. 13: ALCS begins.
Sun., Oct. 14: NLCS begins.
Wed., Oct. 24: World Series begins.

*Jayson Stark, ESPN:http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7637317/mlb-new-postseason-plan

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Tags: 162 Games 1967 1978 2012 AL East AL Wild Card Bucky Dent Bud Seling Calendar Charlie Manuel ESPN Impossible Dream Jayson Stark Luck Manager MLB Commissioner NBA NFL NHL Hockey Pennant Phillies Playoff Playoffs Post-Season Schedule Sudden Death Super Bowl Texas Rangers World Series

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