It’s that time of the year again: we’re roughly 75% through with the baseball season, and it’s time to talk playoff scenarios. While visions of magic numbers dance through many fans’ heads, the MLB will undoubtedly be lamenting (behind closed doors, of course) the lack of large market teams that are on pace to make the playoffs this year. Not all hope is lost, however, as the main objective of adding a second wild card team may finally pay dividends in Commissioner Selig’s last year. How, you might ask? It’s simple: mass chaos.
As we stand at the end of play today, the Tigers sit 1.5 games behind Kansas City for the AL Central, and .5 games behind Seattle for the second wild card spot. Oakland and the LA Angels continue to battle for the division, with the 2nd place team being in the first wild card spot.
Got it so far? Great.
With these teams bunched up, one of the most undesirable (logistically) or desirable (as a neutral fan) outcomes is the following:
- The Angels and A’s tie for the AL West
- The Tigers and the Royals tie for the AL Central, with the same record as the Mariners.
Both of these situations could lead to one of the most confusing tiebreaker scenarios possible under the new rules. Quite a goodbye for the Commissioner, who added the one game playoff in hopes of creating more opportunities for excitement rivaling “Game 162” of the 2011 season.
Here’s how it would shake out, after the season ended on Sunday, September 28th:
Monday, September 29th:
- Kansas City would travel to Detroit to play the AL Central tiebreaker game. (This assumes that KC does not go 6-0 against Detroit in their remaining games, in which case Kansas City would host. If they go 5-1 against Detroit in their remaining games, the team with the better division record would host.) The winner of this game advances to the ALDS, where if current standings held, they would play Game 1 in Baltimore on Wednesday, September 30th. The loser would fly to Seattle, having to play the Mariners in a one game playoff where the winner gets to play…. a one game playoff.
- Los Angeles and Oakland would face off for the division championship. Oakland currently owns the tiebreaker with a head to head record of 6-3, but 10 games remain, so the venue is very much up for grabs. The winner, like in the previous tiebreaker, advances to the ALDS, where they will host Game 1. The loser would host the Wild Card game.
That’s a pretty busy day. So what happens on Wednesday, September 30th?
- The AL Central loser faces the Mariners in Seattle, where the winner goes to play the loser of the AL West tiebreaker and the loser goes home.
Finally, the playoff field is set, despite the ALDS having already started on one side of the bracket. On Thursday, October 1st:
- The Orioles and the AL Central winner play Game 1 in Baltimore.
- Either the Royals, Tigers, or Mariners goes to either LA or Oakland to face the team that lost the AL West tiebreaker, with the winner having the opportunity to play in the ALDS against the winner of the AL West tiebreaker.
Simple, right? Well, in case you had trouble following, I made a flow chart. In it, I separate the “pre-playoffs” with the “real playoffs” although the 1 game eliminations will certainly feel like playoff baseball came a little early. To decode, a green line indicates the path of the winner of that game, a red line the loser. If a black line comes out from a game, it indicates that the winner advances and the loser is eliminated.
Considering that the MLB has tentatively scheduled the postseason to begin on September 30th, this could wreak havoc on any of the participating teams, with the Royals having the worst travel nightmare with the potential to travel 3161 miles in 4 days (Chicago->Detroit->Seattle->Anaheim.)
Furthermore, this assumes that everything goes according to plan. Did I mention that in the last 10 years, it has rained 4 times on September 29th in Detroit?
While this might make heads spin, it would make for absolutely crazy baseball. Huge implications on every game for 3 straight days (not even including the last weekend of the regular season) before the playoffs even begin. This scenario has plenty of losers, but there’s one clear winner:
Baseball fans everywhere.