Another year, and another year where apparently the long 162-game schedule fails to find the 8 best teams in the league. Tonight, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox battle it out for the distinction of 2008 AL Central Champs.
The problem? It's in Chicago. Needless to say, the season series between these two has involved one main factor--who the home team is. The home team is in fact 15-3 this season when the two teams play. So there's no question that tonight, the White Sox have the upper hand and are the favorite, in a game where there should in fact be no favorite.
But it is what it is, and there's a reason I'm writing this before the game. This tiebreaker game sucks, whether or not the Twins lose tonight.
Last year's Rockies-Padres game was phenomenal, no doubt about it. And the result was the Rockies getting a chance to win the NL Pennant. But why even play the game?
Many sports have to deal with this, but few have rules structured as well as professional football. NFL teams play a 16 game schedule, but the calendar allows no room for more football. Instead, they have ways of proving, or at least determining, who the best candidate is. Here's the rule for a division championship:
1. Head-to-head play. What better way to determine who has the advantage but to look at the times the teams have already played each other? It's an obvious choice for the NFL, even though some teams don't play each other every year when it comes to the Wild Card race at least. In the Twins-White Sox case, the Twins lead this one, 10-8.
2. Divisional play. This one makes sense too, and it leads on to another tiebreaker later. How did each team fare against opponents within their division? In this case, the record is 43-29 for each team, so neither has the advantage.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games. Finally, the White Sox lead on this one, though there's no distinct difference here. Twins have a .510 percentage (75-72), Sox have a .533. No distinct difference, just a few one game differences here and there, mostly because of not-so-similar home/away situations.
I could go on, but the stats move on to things like points/touchdowns scored--a stat impossible to translate into baseball except for Runs Scored...and Strength of Victory/Schedule which would take too long to make a moot point.
The big point here is the Twins should at least host said tiebreaker game since they win the head-to-head series. A head-to-head matchup certainly makes more sense than leaving the whole season's playoff implications down to chance.
It is just something of an injustice to have to play a 163rd game, especially after last week's extremely indicative series of who-wants-this-division-more. After Thursday night's game, it was clear who deserved the division, and it was clear the Twins were that team. Suddenly, though the Twins absolutely demolished the White Sox last week, all of what happened this season between the two is irrelevant. Irrelevant because the Twins lost a simple coin flip to negate whatever they did last week. And now, the Twins have to do the same thing, except on the road.