Major League Baseball will apparently vote to eliminate coin flips used for determining sites for one-game playoffs to decide division or wild-card berths.
That, in my view, would be a tragic mistake.
Sure, logically, it makes sense the team with the better head-to-head record should host a one-game playoff.
After all, in 2008, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox were tied atop the A.L. Central at season's end. Minnesota went 10-8 against the Pale Hose but had to travel to U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago because the White Sox won the coin flip in September.
Indeed, it was a huge disadvantage for the Twins, as they'd gone 2-7 all season long in Chicago, but were 8-1 versus the same White Sox team at the Metrodome.
Thanks to a coin flip, the Twins couldn't host that one-game playoff. Had the Twins gone 18-0 all season against the White Sox, Minnesota still would have had to play Game No. 163 in enemy territory.
Sure, that's unfair, but remember, this is baseball. Many unconventional things make it the great sport that it is.
Sometimes baseball does get lucky. For instance, the season before that. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies had home-field advantage—thanks to winning a coin flip—against the San Deigo Padres in a thriller. The Rockies had gone 10-8 against the Padres going into that memorable game, which ended with Matt Holliday's controversial winning run.
But still, baseball is great because of rules like the coin flips.
No game clock in baseball, unlike football, basketball, or hockey. Separate rules for different leagues on the diamond: DHs vs. no DHs. Doubleheaders—something that's impossible in the other professional sports.
That's why baseball is special.
And think about all the epic moments created by these coin flips.
People still talk about Bucky "Bleepin'" Dent. That 1978 Yankees-Red Sox classic was played at Fenway Park, where Dent's three-run bomb over the Green Monster turned a 2-0 Red Sox lead into an eventual defeat. Had the game been played at Yankee Stadium, Dent's flyball would have been an out.
New York had been 8-7 in 15 games in 1978 prior to that classic, and would have hosted the one-gamer had the "team with the better record" earned it.
In 1995, the Seattle Mariners went 5-7 against the California Angels. But when the two teams finished tied atop the A.L. West, the M's hosted the playoff game. Randy Johnson's gem against Mark Langston propelled Seattle into the ALDS, where the Mariners took on the Yankees in an epic series.
Without the coin flip victory, however, Seattle might not have beaten California, and baseball fans would have been deprived of the classic 1995 ALDS.
Of course, the biggest and most memorable special playoff came in 1951. Back then, the N.L. had a three-game playoff (another difference compared to the A.L.).
The New York Giants went 9-13 against the Brooklyn Dodgers during the season but hosted the final two games at the Polo Grounds.
With the series tied 1-1 and the Giants down 4-1 in the ninth in the third game, New York seemed dead.
The Giants, however, rallied against a tiring Don Newcombe, and Bobby Thomson's three-run blast off reliever Ralph Branca, termed "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" gave the Jints the pennant and has since gone down as the greatest home run in baseball history.
(As a side note, fortunately for the National League's three-game playoff, fans were able to witness the epic '51 moment. But the A.L. had always used a one-game playoff, and the Red Sox lost their playoff game to the visiting Cleveland Indians in 1948.
If the AL had adopted a three-game playoff, who knew what might have happened? Boston might well have rallied and won, setting the stage for a Boston Red Sox-Boston Braves World Series. Curses!)
So there you have it, some great moments in baseball history...all created by the players on the field, yes, but certainly helped out thanks to a little coin.
Why change the rule now?
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