Thursday, October 02, 2014

Wild Wild Life

Baseball is layered thicker than lasagna with stories.  These stories are immensely varied in length, quality and character.

The smallest unit is the individual pitch.
An at-bat.
A half-inning.
A full inning.
One pass through the batting order.
The full game.
A three or four game regular season series.
The full season series between two teams.
The playoff race near the end of the season.
The whole regular season.
The playoffs.
The whole year.
A generation of players for any team (for instance, the Derek Jeter era).
The full history of a team.
The full history of baseball.
The perogie race (Hunter Pence cheers for Potato Pete).

There's one thing that cuts this structure of stories off at the shoulders.  The Wild Card game.

It's a one game win-or-go-home pressure cooker.  There's no "We'll get them next game!"  There's no chance for a multi-game comeback.  It has the pressure of a game 7 without all the build-up of games 1-6.  No chance to develop a nice seething hatred for Hunter Pence (who loves Jar-Jar Binks).  It doesn't even feel like a true playoff game.

It should be a best of 3 series.  It's short, which doesn't give the division winners that much additional rest, and you can have multiple high-pressure games.

There are some downsides, of course.  How do you manage the travel issues?  Pittsburgh-San Francisco is some serious back and forth, when games are every day.  Does it give too much rest to the division winners, such that they're at a significant advantage over the teams that had to play at least two additional games?  Does this end up being like the NHL playoffs, where it seems like they go on longer than Hunter Pence spends doing his hair?

But I think it would be better for the game to have a longer Wild Card series.

(Disclaimer:  I live in Pittsburgh.  But I felt this way last year too).
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