There are many things I don't like about the playoffs. (Well, I guess since there's only one "everything", there's just one thing I don't like about the playoffs.) But, one of the biggest is that it makes you have a different team than the one that you needed to get to the playoffs in the first place.
Take the Rays, for instance. It seems to me that they're built for the regular season. Solid pitching. A good line-up. A well constructed bullpen, and organizational depth. Now, I don't watch the Rays every day, but that's my impression from afar.
The Red Sox have less of all of that. The back end of their rotation could use some work. Their bench was occasionally bare.
Not huge difference, mind you. But enough to account for the eight game difference in their win totals. It's a balanced team probably has better luck beating up on the Orioles and not falling to an ill-timed slump. Sometimes the Red Sox were forced to throw a starter you knew wasn't going to do well, or use a reliever you didn't trust. When that happened, they likely lost the game.
Suddenly, that doesn't matter. In the playoffs you can hide those flaws. Suddenly it's all about the top dogs. The Red Sox only needed three starting pitchers during the series against the Rays. Suddenly the ability of the Rays to cobble together a bullpen game was nullified. The Red Sox didn't need to altar their line-up to keep guys rested, or keep guys fresh. The best nine guys played. It didn't matter if guy 23 on the Rays was better.
So, which is it that baseball is looking for? Do they want a champion that can prove their dominance over a 162 game grind? Or do they want to reward the team with the five best players? And if it's the latter, why don't they let every team try to win with their five best? Who's to say that the Orioles couldn't take the title if it was just a couple five game series?
But, I'll happily play the hand that was dealt. The Red Sox have advanced through two toss-up rounds and are now on their way to the ALCS. The Boston sports embarrassment of riches continues as yet another team reaches the final four.
I can't wait to see how far they go!