Even (now) two-time World Series-winning, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy has admitted it: winning the World Series is a crapshoot.
Some teams get hot, some team go cold — it’s got nothing to do with talent, ability, desire or heart (despite the mythology that goes along with winning a Series). After a 162-game season that proves you’re good enough to dance with the best, the rest is left to fate and fortune.
Ask the Atlanta Braves.
From 1991 to 2005, they won 14 straight National League East division titles. Yet they won only one World Series in that amazing, record-setting run of success. Even random luck suggests they should have won at least two titles in that time period.
The Miami Marlins – formerly the Florida Marlins – have never won a division title, but the only two times they’ve made the postseason as a wild-card team, the Marlins won the World Series.
There really is no rhyme or reason to the Major League Baseball postseason, as much as teams who win it all want to claim (or their fans, for that matter).
Understanding the MLB postseason can be summed up simply: flip a coin and hope for the best.
Another World Series is now in the books, and for the 15th time in 18 seasons since the advent of the wild-card round, the team with the best regular-season record didn’t win the championship.
This year’s matchup featured the American League team with the seventh-best record in that circuit versus the team with the third-best record in the National League.
Not that the best regular-season team needs to win to validate anything — whether their own season or the postseason structure — but what is the regular season worth after 162 games?
Consider the case of the 2012 New York Yankees and Washington Nationals: prior to divisional play in 1969, they would have had automatic tickets to the World Series. Now, they sit at home wondering what the advantage was to winning so many games in the six-month season.
The Oakland Athletics have been to the postseason six times in the last 13 seasons. Only the Yankees (12 postseason appearances), the St. Louis Cardinals (9), and the Braves (8) have been better this century.
The Braves and the A’s haven’t won the crapshoot in the postseason this century, though, while New York (two titles) and St. Louis (two) have found their way to multiple championships during the same period.
In fact, overall, only the Yankees and Cardinals organizations have more World Series titles than the Athletics, historically, and only New York (six) has more than Oakland (four) since divisional play began in 1969.
So the A’s have won more than their fair share of championships, although they all came before the latest round of playoff expansion: Oakland has lost five straight Game Fives in the ALDS, and flipping a coin for those games would have given them better odds than what the playoff gods offered them over the last 13 seasons.
As noted, the additional round of playoffs added in 1994 — and now, the newest round added in 2012 — have diluted the regular season, giving little advantage to the regular season’s best teams.
That is one problem MLB needs to fix: otherwise, what’s the point of the regular season? With ten teams now making it, the higher seed needs to be significantly more rewarding come playoff time:
- For the new wild-card round, make it a best-of-three, all at the higher seed’s home ballpark;
- For the divisional round, make it a best-of-seven with five games at the higher seed’s ballpark (1, 2, 3, 6, 7). That’s a distinct advantage, rather than just a mild one like the current seven-game set-up (1, 2, 6, 7);
- For the league championship, the same set-up as noted above should be employed;
- For the World Series, it’s time to scrap the “winner of the All-Star Game” garbage. Just give the traditional four home games to the team with the best regular-season record, especially come 2013 when interleague play is more evenly dispersed with two, evenly-organized 15-team leagues.
These changes can alter the postseason landscape from the current crapshoot to something that actually rewards teams for their 162-game superiority — and less likely to leave the best teams to a short-series coin toss.
Another issue has shown its ugly head in the past seven years: three times, a team that swept its LCS matchup has had to wait around for a week waiting for the other LCS to go seven games. Each time — 2006, 2007 and 2012 — the LCS-sweeping team has gotten blown out in the World Series, mostly due to rust and inactivity affecting momentum and timing.
Is it fair to penalize a team for being dominant? No, but there’s not much that can be done here. And it’s just another reason why the postseason is a crapshoot — you can’t really control your own destiny, as much as that phrase gets tossed around as a tenet of truth.
There’s an old adage about the U.S. Open in golf: you don’t win the Open — it wins you.
And the same thing is now true of the World Series. And it shouldn’t be that way, perhaps.
Ask the 2000 San Francisco Giants: they had the best record in baseball, and they didn’t win. But their 2010 and 2012 counterparts had the fifth- and fourth-best records, respectively, in the regular season — and did win it all.
Go figure. Fate has to be cruel first in order to be kind in the end.