Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Terrific Tiebreakers and Playoff Picks

You all better thank the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers for putting on one hell of a show Tuesday night. They just saved you about 14,000 words of kisses and flowers toward the Rockies.

Instead, the Twinkies' 12-inning win has inspired me to talk about something else, so I'll just say a few words about ROCKTOBER.

First off, my Sportsman of the Month goes to Jim Tracy. September wasn't his best month, no, but it's a Lifetime Achievement pick, and by lifetime, I mean since June. Thankfully, just about every baseball writer I've seen has picked Tracy over Tony La Russa for NL Manager of the Year, so Rox fans won't be alone in crying bloody murder if La Russa wins the award. But I do truly feel that Tracy entered the "If He Doesn't Win This Award Than They Shouldn't Give The Damn Award" realm when his team clinched a postseason berth with three games to spare. 20-32 to a playoff spot? In a year where it took every bit of 90 wins to earn a playoff spot (whereas in other seasons, 82 is plenty)? Simply ridiculous. Unfathomable. Jim Tracy is a savior.

The other thing I wanted to tackle is an explanation. I get pretty aggressive when it comes to analyzing national attention given (or not given) to my beloved Rockies, and a little while back, I figured out why. I was coddled with Denver-based media for 18 years, never having to worry about national media. Well, when you go off to college in Wisconsin, and then work in Iowa, all you have to depend on is national media. Sure, I read Denverpost.com religiously, but sometimes, it's just not the same. My father and a few close friends do their best to keep me keyed in, but again, it's just not the same. I STILL have not been a Rockies game this year, which is the first time in the existence of the franchise that I did not attend a regular season game at Coors Field or Mile High Stadium. Throw in the fact that I am a sportswriter at heart, and of course, my criticism of ESPN just gets more intense.

So, two things: first, I don't mean to spit on ESPN. It covered the Rockies an appropriate amount, and from working full-time for a newspaper these past four months, it's helped me learn that, well, you don't always necessarily cover the HOT team; you gotta please the highest amount of readers. It sounds awkward and perhaps unfair, but hey, ya can't bring home the bacon if you're not serving your highest readership. Subscriptions and ratings DO matter. So I understand why ESPN does what it does. I'm just spoiled by their strangely-stalkerish love of the Nuggets and Broncos, so sometimes I get a little carried away with how much or little they cover the Rox. And secondly, it may have taken all of four years - or, well, it probably just took my first full summer away from home - I learned that it sucks covering a team from afar. It's absolutely dreadful. I can deal with it for Nuggets season, because they're on TV every other night; and I'm more of an NFL fan than a Bronco fan, so I can deal there too. But it's been very difficult to enjoy the Rockies this year. It makes me sad, but it's the facts of life, and I hope that everyone who currently lives in the city of their favorite team cherishes it, because it's much different watching from afar.

So on that note, I will announce that I have made plans to be back in Denver for games 3 and 4! I have not been in the Mile High City since May, and even then, I was groggy from oral surgery. It's been a long time, so anybody who reads this and is in Denver, hit me up on my cell or the good ol' Facebook if you want to hang out Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

And please, don't Tweet me. That's just lame.

Well, that was longer than I expected. So here's the REAL fun part of the blog post. Let's recap the past three MLB seasons:

2007 - Padres-Rockies, both 89-73, play in Colorado for NL Wild Card. Rockies win 9-8 in 13 innings.
2008 - Twins-White Sox, both 88-74, play in Chicago for AL Central. White Sox win 1-0 on Jim Thome home run.
2009 - Tigers-Twins, both 86-76, play in Minnesota for AL Central. Twins win 6-5 in 12 innings.

Three tiebreaker games in three years. Two go to extra innings. The other was 'first to score wins'. All three decided by one run.

And I guarantee you, whether you're a fan of the Rockies or Tigers or Yankees or Yomiuri Giants or Quad-City River Bandits ... you were watching. And you were tense. And you were EXCITED.

Why not? How seldom do we get ONE game in baseball to decide it all? Would any of us complain if you knew there would be a play-in game in 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and every year after that?

So, to coin an old phrase of mine...HERE'S A THOUGHT. What if we DID have a play-in game every year?

Take a breath. Calm down. Now listen to this ... what if we had TWO OF 'EM?!?!?!

Here's my plan: the division winners make the playoffs as they usually do, and seed 'em 1-2-3. Then you take the two non-division-champion teams with the best records in each league, and they play ONE GAME FOR THE WILD CARD. The winner moves on to play the top seed (divisions don't matter ... so for example, this year, Rockies could play Dodgers in the first round), the loser goes home.

Here are the positives: you extend the regular season longer for more teams, because there's a better chance of playing past 162. You have less teams mailing in the last 10, 15 games of the season. You give home advantage to the wild card team with the better record, and not only that, but if they've wrapped it up a few games in advance (while the weaker wild card is still fighting for a berth in this play-in game), they can set their rotation perfectly for such an event. It gives a great advantage to the overall top seed - something that should be rewarded - because the winner of this play-in game will have presumably lost its best pitcher for the first few games. TBS gets a doubleheader - one AL game, one NL game - and one hell of a promo event for the upcoming playoffs. And most importantly, you get the fans' juices running on overdrive right at the end of the season and beginning of the playoffs. You GRAB THEIR ATTENTION so they are more inclined to watch the rest of the postseason, rather than dismissing it and just sticking with college and pro football.

How could this miss? HOW COULD IT?

I think it's brilliant. Let me know what you think.

And now, playoff picks

AL Divisional Series:
Yankees beat Twins in three. New York is too good and too deep. Minny is a nice story, but this thing will be essentially over before the series shifts back for some Metrodome Magic.
Angels beat Red Sox in five. How do the Angels do it year after year? You figure they've got to figure out Boston sometime.

NL Divisional Series:
Cardinals beat Dodgers in four. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright versus Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw. Any questions?
Phillies beat Rockies in five. The Rox must start out with a win Wednesday, because Cliff Lee has been terrible lately. Give Philly a 1-0 lead and veteran Cole Hamels the ball on Thursday, and Colorado risks digging itself a hole it might not dig out of.

Then again, you might have said that about 20-32.


1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting idea in years where the wild card is close, but some teams would get absolutely screwed by it (i.e. this year's Red Sox, who won the wild card by eight games). It would be quite unfair to make them play a winner-take-all game against Texas when they proved throughout the 162-game season that they are clearly the better team.