Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wild Wild Card

My Twitter timeline was dominated by a couple different themes last night, relating to the Wild Card play-in game. Both of them, frankly, bothered me.

The first one was different variations of “What an incredible game to watch, but I’m glad the Red Sox aren’t playing in it. I’d be a mess.” While people were suggesting that the one game play-in was an exciting game to watch, they all seemed to acknowledge that it’s a downright terrible way to decide if your team gets to advance in a playoff system. I’m not sure I like the idea of having those exclusive thoughts. If you agree that it’s not something you’d want to have your team have to go through, why are you watching? Why would you endorse making another team go through a coin flip in order to advance to the playoffs? As someone who hates playoffs in general, I just can’t wrap my arms around it. If we’re looking to crown a World Champion, what are we trying to base it on? Is it based on 162 games played over the course of six months, or are we basing it on a game based almost entirely on luck? Who happens to be healthy in this one particular game? Who happens to be rested and ready? Who happens to be hot? Who happens to have an off night? Which ball happens to take a weird bounce? This is what we’re basing our champions on now? Can you imagine the Red Sox losing the game last night because a ball hits the bag? Or because it goes extra innings and who knows which pitcher is available? That would be outrageous. 

And, I know the answer I’m going to get. Don’t want to be in the play-in game? Win your division. With that, I completely agree. So, eliminate the Wild Card game altogether. Why stop there? After all, we already had that six month season. Why should anyone but the team that finished the season with the most wins be eligible to be called “World Champion”? Because they won one more game in October? Why are those games the only ones that matter? Why not select the champions based on a series in mid-May? That would be just as arbitrary. 

If everyone knows it’s a crazy way to decide a champion, why do we encourage it? If you just have to have a tournament, I’ve already told you how to do that. But, why are we so excited about throwing an entire season away over a bad bounce in the one game we decide to count? I don’t get it.

The other theme that dominated Twitter was Zach Britton. The Orioles didn’t bring in their all-star closer at any point in the game, and they lost. Um…so? 

Let me start out by saying that I’m one of the people who hates the “closer” role. I don’t understand ever saving your best pitcher for a situation that might be less intense later. Why you would throw your third best pitcher with a one run lead in the seventh, but your best pitcher with a three run lead in the ninth is simply mind boggling to me. 

I also understand that other people don’t feel that way. They like the idea of having that shut-down closer come out and seal the victory. Give that lead to him, and the game is over. That’s the way they feel. So, while I disagreed with them, I understood when they complained over and over that John Farrell kept bringing Craig Kimbrel into games when they weren’t save situations. They had the closer role in their head, and the manager needed to stick to the plan. They would even complain when Kimbrel was brought into a tie game at home. Even though there would never be a save situation in that game, Kimbrel wasn’t supposed to be used. My goodness they would complain.

Then came last night. “How can Buck not pitch his best pitcher?!?!?!?!” People were incredulous. What was he thinking? It was a must-win game. Why on earth would he have his best pitcher on the bench in a tie game?

Umm…because it wasn’t a save situation? He was saving him for a hopeful save situation the next inning?

Isn’t that what everyone wants? Wasn’t that the kicking and screaming I heard all season? Don’t you dare bring your closer into a tie game?  Now, suddenly, they’re kicking and screaming for the exact opposite reason? Why doesn’t it make sense to people that Britton was being held for a save situation that, unfortunately, never materialized? 

So, if the Sox are tied in the ninth inning of game five in Cleveland next week…what is John Farrell supposed to do? Bring in Kimbrel like he’s done all year, and has gotten screamed at over all year, or save him for the save situation that might come along, like Buck did last night and got screamed at over? Do people know? Or is it another case of complaining about whichever move doesn’t work. 

Sometimes I don’t understand people.

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