You might hate it now, but if your favorite baseball team is just above average enough to grab the extra wild card spot MLB’s adding for the 2012 season (announcement coming as soon as tomorrow, according to Ken Rosenthal), you’re going to love it. Playoff spots are like tax breaks that way. People never like them until their accountant sends an email saying they qualify, then by all means GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Countless times, the San Francisco Giants trumpeted an achievement that screams “just good enough to sell 3.1 million tickets.” It occurs when someone in the organization (okay, Larry Baer) would tell Ralph and Tom or the beat writers how proud the Giants were that they’d only been out of contention for 10 days or whatever over the past several seasons. They bragged about this almost daily, until 2005 — when the Giants’ big off-season acquisition was Moises Alou, who promptly hit the DL after the second game of the season and the Giants spiraled out of control for a year or four.
Let’s take a look at how many times the Giants would’ve gone to the playoffs since 1997, just for Sabez and giggles.
*The Giants would’ve made the postseason had the extra wild card been in place.
For a team like the Giants that likes to stay in contention and let the chips fall where they may, the extra wild card would’ve changed the Giants’ fortunes from a mediocre can of Pringles to a delicious bag of Kettle, Tim’s or whatever chips are your favorite. And if your favorite chips can be described as “Flaming Hot,” I think that says something about you (like: “just shoot the MSG directly into my veins, please”).
Imagine if the same Giants we’ve been watching for the past 15 years had made the playoffs nine times instead of just five. Every year the postseason would be considered a birthright, and people would have gone completely guano during that 2005-08 stretch when the Giants made the awkward transition from a roster built around an older, hulking superstar to a team built around a younger, skinny superstar (with a few other homegrown guys mixed in).
What do you mean, under .500? We’ve made the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons!
Is a one-game playoff counter to what baseball’s all about? Sure. Baseball’s about stamina and playing series after series after series. But what are you going to do? Bud gets what Bud wants.
Would losing a one-game playoff be a painful way to end a season, with the potential to cause more bitterness than falling a game short after the last day of the regular season’s in the books? It’s difficult to compare degrees of pain, but I do remember talking to my buddy Carp on the phone in 1998, immediately after the Giants lost 5-3 to the Cubs on Game No. 163 at Wrigley. I wasn’t recording the conversation (like I do now whenever I talk to my friends), but here’s how it went if I remember correctly.
Carp: Well, that sucked.
Carp: I almost wish the Giants didn’t make it this far.
Me: Yeah, me too. I can’t believe I cut (whatever evening G.E. class I was taking) for this.
(Sammy Sosa’s on TV for the postgame interview … for some reason Sosa’s jersey is off.)
Carp: Holy s&*#, you see Sosa?
Me: Jesus, he’s ridiculously huge.
Carp: He must have worked out really hard during the off-season.
Me: It’s amazing what these guys can do in the weight room nowadays.