Well, that was over fast.
The division series match-ups, which began last Wednesday, already are all over by press time, with the American League Championship Series scheduled to start this Friday when the N.Y. Yankees hit the road to face either the Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays (who decided their series in Florida last night).
The MLB playoffs is an experience unlike any other post-season, especially in the first round.
If the scheduling is right, a team can go from hopeful to the brink of elimination in the span of about 24 hours, as both the Rays and Minnesota Twins did in their respective ALDS series.
While the Rays fought back to force a fifth-and-deciding game, the Twins did not, and were eliminated from play Saturday night after opening their series with the Yankees just on Thursday.
The MLB is different in that after a long, drawn-out regular season, the playoffs seem snappy by comparison.
Yep, after 162 games and a schedule that stretches from late March to early October (with teams in action nearly every day), a club qualifying for the playoffs can be knocked out in all of four days.
In the case of the Twins, they went from a strong 90-plus win club to being in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-five series in pretty much a day.
As easy as it would be to rail about the way the Yankees build their teams, and have won nine-consecutive playoff games against Minnesota (sigh), I’m not going to go there, as much as I’d love to.
The Yankees’ best players were their best players (a cliché, but true) and they were able to take advantage of their golden opportunities to score (another cliché, but also true; sigh).
Nope, all I want is for the divisional showdowns to grow into a best-of-seven series, weighting all three rounds of the playoffs equally.
In terms of the Twins’ result, Game 4 likely would have been a torturous outing, but it would have just felt a little more right.
After keeping up with the team every day for the better part of a year, it’s just shocking when things end so soon.
I’m no gardener (using any sort of “good friend” or even a pet analogy just seemed too morbid for sports purposes, no offence to serious green thumbs intended), but I’m sure it’s like meticulously taking care of a healthy, even thriving, plant and then coming home from work one day to see it on its last legs.
Maybe it’ll bounce back and put up a fight, but all signs point to it being a goner.
Even if it had just had that one extra day where it could go out and fight, it would make everything just that much more tolerable.
Having the Twins going to New York down 2-0 and only halfway to losing the season gives some equal time for reflection and hope than the current situation, where I was practically reading their last rites in the time between games.
But there are other reasons to go to a best-of-seven that go beyond the damaged, fragile psyche of a swept team’s fans (writing about “damaged, fragile psyche” of sports fans—crossing that one off the bucket list).
Firstly, each team should be guaranteed the same number of home games at the base level of the series.
In this case, the Twins don’t fit into the equation, as they had two home games, the Yankees had two games, and now will have at least two more in the ALCS. Fine. Whatever.
But how about supporters of the Cincinnati Reds, who made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies? The Reds only got one game in front of their home crowd—kind-of-a-slap in the face for fans who weren’t able to get tickets for Game 3.
In addition to going to a best-of-seven format, the LDS match-ups should be played with a day in between games to allow swept teams to at least last a week, and to let starved fans at least savour the playoff experience (see Thrashers, Atlanta, 2007).
As well, it’ll change the way teams look at a series in terms of their pitching rotation. Many opt to go with a four-man rotation (should a series stretch that long) while a three-man rotation, often anchored by a workhorse ace like New York’s C.C. Sabathia, occasionally finds its way into a few teams’ plans.
With a day off in between each game, the quality of pitching should stay higher overall—considering that teams will be able to send out their top three hurlers on proper rest.
Lastly, scheduling a day off in between games would help remedy the baseball’s biggest LDS problem: day games.
MLB is the only pro sports league in North America that schedules afternoon playoff games on weekdays, which is absolutely ridiculous. Granted, they tend to be the first games of series and not series clinchers, but still, MLB is selling itself short by not placing all games in prime time.
With MLB’s divisional formats, it shouldn’t be too hard scheduling an early game and a late game, given that at least one team from the Central time zone is likely to make the playoffs and can play either the early or late role.
However, considering that Game 3 of the Twins-Yankees series began at 8:30 p.m. local time (after an afternoon game in Central time zone Dallas, no less), MLB is open to playing a little fast and loose in comparison to traditional 7 or 7:30 p.m. start times in the post-season.
Yes, MLB, become more like your NBA and NHL counterparts—weight series equally, give long-suffering fans a couple of chances to see post-season dates in their hometowns, and get all of your games into prime time.
Besides, who really has time or patience to watch a playoff baseball tripleheader?
(On that note, after slogging through nearly 3.5 hours of the Twins’ opener, I was momentarily surprised to remember that Roy Halladay’s no-hitter was earlier in the same day, and it happened in the game immediately preceding the Twins and Yankees, no less. By then, the Rays and Rangers opener felt like it had happened the week before at some point).
If the MLB has to cut its season by a week and reduce the number of games to 156 from 162, so be it.
Fans of the Royals and Pirates can get to hoping for next season that much earlier in the year, although magnifying the importance of each game by cutting less than four percent of them aren’t going to drive up urgency for supporter.
At any rate, the Twins are out and it’s all over for me until the spring.
At least the Edmonton Oilers are looking good in the NHL, and may even last more than a week when they qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs come April.
Well, that was over fast.