MLB Playoffs: Tampa Bay at Texas, Winner to Cleveland and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

The convoluted American League playoff scheme that could have occured had Cleveland lost yesterday did not occur as the Twins gave it to the Indians. However, Tampa Bay and Texas both won. They play one game to settle the issue today in Texas. Both teams will start left handers, David Price (9-8, 3.39) for the Rays and Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55) for Texas. “We’ll have to watch this one to see who wins,” said Nancy Pelosi, while lamenting the Giants (76-86) poor season.  Of course, the issue that will be settled today is just about who plays in the real Wild Card game in Cleveland on Wednesday.

If I were to hazard a opinion, I would give the edge to the Rangers based entirely on Joe Nathan, its closer. We’ll see.

The Pirates play the Reds tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The Reds will start Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.82) and the Pirates will start Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02). Again, if I were going to hazard a guess here, I would flip a coin. (The flip just said Pittsburgh)

Where I have been focused on these wild card games,  the real fun starts with the Divisional Series, schedule here.

Some years ago, I was involved in discussions of playoff formats as the expansion of the major leagues would cause a change in league alignments and the force the creation of divisions. This is so no team would finish 12th (or now 15th) in the standings and more pennant races equals more local interest.

The creation of divisions, first East and West and then to East, West, Central, created the need for a WIld Card. or the non winning team with the highest winning percentage, so that two series could be played. That lead to the creation of a second wild card because Fox wanted another game.

The discussion I was involved in focused on who should play in the World Series. Some thought that the true league champions should play there and those were the two teams at the top of each league. The creation of divisions ended that argument, but now we have second wild cards eligible for the World Series. Maybe we have gone too far, but the money generated by broadcasts of extra games means this is permanent. The problem is that the extra games pushes the World Series into the second half of October. It is scheduled to end on October 31 this year and that is too far into the Fall to hold national interest as each sports league has its natural season and baseball games in late October just don’t work as well. World Series TV ratings illustrate this fact.

Nevertheless, I will watch them all as it is the greatest championship series of all, even though it may not reward the True league champions

MLB Wild Card: The Final Weekend

Wednesday night was the final curtain for several teams with playoff hopes. The Yankees lost to Tampa Bay 8-3 and, when coupled with the Indians’ win over Chicago, were eliminated from post season play for only the second time in nineteen years. This also signaled the end of the Mariano Rivera era and his significant contribution to success over his career. Kansas City lost and its hopes ended as well. We will see more of this fine, young team next year. Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati lost, setting the stage for the three games they play each other in Cincinnati this weekend. Pittsburgh has a one game lead over Cincinnati, so, if Cincinnati wins the series, it has home field advantage based on the record between the two teams this season where they are tied 8-8 at this time. Regardless, these two teams will play for the wild card on October 1.

In the American League, Texas remains one game behind Cleveland for the second wild card slot. Tampa Bay leads Cleveland by one as well. An interesting note here is that the inter-league, unbalanced schedule means that Texas has played seventy-eight games against +.500 teams and the Rays have played 100+.500 teams. A large part of the difference is that Texas is 17-2 against Houston. That is reality. Cleveland plays at Minnesota and the Twins play well at home and have played well there against Cleveland, Texas plays at home against the Angels who need two wins to finish at  .500, a significant achievement for them, and Tampa Bay plays at Toronto. What this means is that these three teams will play intensely to finish and win. Just think that if Toronto sweeps Tampa Bay, the Rangers win two of three with the Angels and Cleveland loses two of three in Minnesota, all teams will be at 89-72, a three team tie. This is highly unlikely, but it is baseball, so is possible. We will worry about that on Sunday.

The wild card games will be played October 1 for the NL and October 2 for the AL. The games will be played, if I am to hazard a guess, in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. We’ll see.