Those baseball teams that end the regular season tied for a division lead or a wild-card playoff spot better get all the sleep they can. Loading up on some Red Bull and/or 5-Hour Energy might not be a bad idea either.
(Are those considered performance enhancers? Are they on the list of banned substances? Team trainers and medical staff should check now.)
MLB released its postseason schedule on Thursday, Aug. 9, revealing that the playoffs will begin with the one-game wild-card playoff on Friday, Oct. 5. Baseball's regular season ends on Wednesday, Oct. 3. That leaves one day for a tiebreaker to be played for a division title or a wild-card playoff spot.
What if two teams are tied for first place at the end of the regular season yet both have qualified for the playoffs?
A tiebreaker will still need to be played because, as clarified by Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, the division champion will automatically be in the division series while the runner-up has to play in the Wild Card playoff. Best to have that determined on the field, rather than by head-to-head record, division record or nicer uniforms.
Meanwhile, the division winner with the league's best record will wait until Sunday, Oct. 7 before playing the first game of their division series. Will three days of rest be an advantage or a detriment? That team might need Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy or a few espressos for different reasons.
What if three teams end up tied for the two wild-card spots?
If you think that's an outlandish scenario, that was exactly the case with the American League Wild Card standings on Aug. 9. As of Aug. 11, there's basically a five-team cluster you-know-what at the top of the AL wild-card race. This thing could very well happen.
So in that case, the two teams with the best head-to-head records against one another would play a tiebreaker.
The winner of that game gets one wild-card spot. The loser of that game plays the team with the worst head-to-head record for the second wild-card spot.
Then the two Wild Cards would play their one-game playoff to determine who plays in the division series.
Did that make sense? Because I'm the one who typed it out and presumably proofread and fact-checked it and I'm still not sure I got it right. I suppose we can just follow along with the games that will be played if there's a three-way tie for the AL Wild Card.
Oh, and remember this: The Wild Card gets to host the division winner with the league's best record for the first two games of their division series.
This scheduling quirk only occurs this season, however, because there was no room for an extra travel day before a potential Game 5. This is because MLB had already made the regular-season schedule before the postseason schedule was agreed upon. Next year, order will be restored with a 2-2-1 series format.
Are you still following along? I am, but I'm typing this out.
ESPN's Jayson Stark pointed out another quirk of the 2012 postseason schedule with this tweet:
MLB finally announced 2012 postseason sked. NO off day between ALDS Game 5 & ALCS Game 1 even though the ALCS site depends on ALDS outcome!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) August 9, 2012
Haven't we always been told one reason that home-field advantage in the World Series isn't determined by which team has the best record because travel schedules, hotel accommodations and so forth have to be planned in advance?
That's typically the rationale from MLB and commissioner Bud Selig, usually when defending the rule that the winner of the All-Star Game now determines home-field advantage in the World Series.
Did anyone stop to consider that if the division series between the top seed and Wild Card team goes to a Game 5, no one will know where Game 1 of the ALCS will be played until that Game 5 is completed?
Apparently travel schedules, hotel accommodations and the variety of other logistical concerns don't matter when it comes to the ALCS.
I realize that Selig isn't entirely responsible for this potential postseason mess, despite what the title of this article might indicate. He wasn't locked in his office, working tirelessly into the late night and early morning, perhaps sleeping on his office couch and not seeing his family for days while pounding out this schedule.
Well, maybe he was for all I know. But a staff of several people probably put this thing together, looking for any open day to cram postseason games into. And maybe there was some somewhat maniacal, sleep-deprived laughter if or when someone asked, "What about the players? Can they do this?"
However, this postseason schedule falls at Selig's feet, just as the 2002 All-Star Game debacle and the home-field incentive that it spawned is on him.
This is why Selig's detractors continue to say he doesn't get it, that he does things like expand the playoff schedule when a regular-season schedule is already set. And he doesn't expand instant replay while umpires continue to blow calls and the technology to review such matters is already on hand in every ballpark in the majors.
But maybe this will all work out.
Maybe there won't be any ties for division titles or in the Wild Card standings. Maybe a team with a better regular-season record won't lose a playoff series after having to play the first two games on the road. Maybe the ALDS featuring the league's best team and a Wild Card won't go to five games.
In that case, Selig might exhale, wipe his brow and smile the smile of a relieved man. But he'll probably just have the same pained look on his face that he always does. That's our baseball commissioner, you guys.
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