Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
We’ve already seen how baseball has cheapened the regular season in the last 40 years (see Kallas Remarks, 10/2/08). With two divisions, then three and the dreaded Wild Card, “winning” became a misnomer. You could not even win your (shrunken) division, make the postseason via the Wild Card and still win the World Series. Sad but true, that will never be changed. In fact, the new cry is to let more losers have a chance to win the World Series. Like it or not, it made baseball like all the other major sports; that is, you don’t have to finish first to win it all.
But the problem that can be fixed is the absurd best-of-five first round of the playoffs. How stupid is that? Well, very stupid. It cheapens an already cheapened regular season. The best record in the league, which once was a pass to the World Series and, except in rare circumstances (the 1960 Yankees come to mind), a sign of a successful season, gave way to the snipers sniping at things like “this team can’t win the big one” or “this team isn’t built for the postseason.” Of course, these things were never discussed when only one team won the pennant via finishing first in the regular season.
But that was then, this is now. The “pennant” winner has given way to the “anything can happen” first round of the playoffs. Some people actually like the notion that there can be upsets in the first round because it’s only five games. Well, if upsets are the goal (they shouldn’t be), why not just make the baseball playoffs a series of one game do-or-die contests? While most of us think that’s moronic, you get the point.
Once upon a time, winning the pennant (pre-1969) in the regular season was respected and meant great success. Now, having the best record is almost a kiss of death, because everybody starts at 0-0 in the playoffs. And, you know, “anything can happen in the playoffs.” “It’s a crapshoot.” Sad that it’s come to that.
The problem for teams like the Cubs (or, frankly, any team with the best regular-season record) is this: under the enormous 100-year World Series winless streak (in the case of the Cubs), if you lose the first game at home in a best-of-five, you’re virtually done. Now, this year, nobody thinks the Cubs would have beaten the Dodgers in a best-of-seven. But that misses the point. You could almost see and feel that, after one game, the doom and gloom Cub fans (and, arguably, the Cubs) had already expected defeat in the series. The “New” Dodgers (i.e., the Manny “I’m trying now” Ramirez-led Dodgers) knocked the Cubs to the ground in Game 1 and never let them get up.
But any time a division winner loses Game 1 at home, they’re in deep trouble. That shouldn’t happen. A best-of-seven, at least, gives the better team (over a 162-game regular season) a chance to win. The closer you get to one game winner-take-all, the more upsets you’re going to have. And don’t forget that,.once upon a time, the World Series was best-of-nine.
The Cubs, of course, have more issues than just a best-of-five. It’s finally dawned on people that Alfonso Soriano just isn’t that good in the postseason. But that’s old news: after his stunning off-the-shoetops home run off Curt Schilling in the 2001 World Series, Soriano hit .118 in the 2002 playoffs, .239 in 2003 and .143 in 2007. Nobody should have been shocked, given the steady diet of breaking balls he sees (and has trouble with) in the postseason, that he would hit .071 this year. But beliefs (like Robinson Cano is the next Rod Carew) die hard when you can’t (or won’t) see the obvious.
Where does all of this leave baseball? Rather than furthering the cheapness of the regular season, baseball should announce a return to best-of-seven playoffs. Although, apparently, Bud Selig won’t allow it because the season is already too long, he (or his advisors) should reconsider: if time is truly the problem and baseball won’t return to real doubleheaders (you know, where people could actually go to two games for the price of one), baseball should schedule, three or four times a year, a day-night doubleheader, which would give the owners their precious separate admissions but would also give an extra three or four days come playoff time for one or two extra games.
And it would also give the better team a better chance to win – something they’ve earned by coming out on top in a 162-game season.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.