I raise this theme almost every post-season, because almost every year one the top teams loses to a team that didn’t look nearly as good during the regular season. This year, it’s the Cardinals beating the Phillies.
I don’t know how many predictions I saw claiming that the Phillies were going to win the World Series because their pitching was just oh so good. Part of these predictions was simply short memories. The Giants won the World Series last year with great pitching and just enough hitting, so obviously the Phillies with their great starters were going to win it all this year. Yeah, sure.
Anything can happen in a short series. The Giants got hot at the right time last year, and the Cardinals got hot at the right time this year. And it’s hardly the first time it’s happened.
Remember the 1987 Twins? They won the World Series after going a little better than mediocre 85-77 during the regular season.
How about the 1973 Mets? They won the NL East that year with a truly mediocre 82-79 record, the worst team ever to make the post-season. They then beat the Reds, winners of 99 regular season games, 3 out of 5 and took the A’s, in the middle of the period when they were one of the greatest teams ever, to seven games.
In fact, the A’s won more regular season games in each of 1971 and 1975, when they lost in the play-offs, than they did in any of 1972, 1973 or 1974, when they won three World Series in a row. [1972 was a strike year, but the A’s still had better winning percentages in ’71 and ’75.
Unlike the NBA or the NFL, where big upsets are just that, a five or seven game series in baseball really doesn’t prove a whole lot. That’s one of the reasons I would prefer not to reach a point where 16 or even 12 major league teams make the play-offs every year.
Just like the fact that the NBA regular season is at least 30 games too long (does anyone really believe the teams in the NBA Finals every year, or even the semi-finals, would be any different if the NBA played a 52 game regular season?), putting too many teams in the playoffs would make a mockery of a 162 game regular season. Limiting the number of teams that make the play-offs at least means that the teams vying for the World Series have to win a lot more games than they lose in regular season, which is the only way that winning the World Series really means anything.
That being said, I could live with the idea of adding a second wild card team in each league and forcing the two wildcards to a play a best two-out-of-three series in the park of the wild card with the better regular season record. That wouldn’t would make the post-season much longer (only 4 or 5 days), it would be an exciting series, and the team moving on would have to earn the right to play one of the division winners.
I was kind of hoping the Phillies would make the NL Championship series, simply because they do (did) have the best team in the NL. Otherwise, though, I’m pretty pleased with the play-offs so far.
I’m hoping the Brewers win the NL pennant, and I was pleased to see the Yankees get knocked off in the first round. If I don’t have a dog in the fight, I generally like to see teams that haven’t won in a long time (or in the case of the Brewers and Rangers never) win it all.