One of MLB’s two best teams will face a single-game elimination? Here’s why that’s a good thing

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

The best second-place team in the history of the National League was the 1993 San Francisco Giants. That’s a declarative statement about a debatable point, but it’s made with this in mind: The team that finishes second in this year’s National League West might be able to stake a claim for that crown.

The problem, if you see it as a problem, is that, whether it’s the Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of these two high-powered clubs, who have owned the two-best winning percentages in baseball for much of the season, is going to have to play a coin-flip, anything-can-happen, winner-take-all wild-card game. How unjust.

That’s one way to look at it. The other is to consider this stretch run between two ancient rivals as a feature, not a bug, of the current playoff format. When you do, you can spend the next two-plus weeks reveling in a great race, rather than stewing over a perceived injustice that is nothing but a byproduct of the contemporary mindset about sports.

This feature is not only not a bug, but we should all rejoice that it exists.

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