Eugene watching Yankee Classics. [Photo: David Kramer]
My father is a turncoat.
In 1941, Uncle Leo took Eugene to the Dodgers-Yankees World Series at Ebbetts Field. Supposedly, the experience cemented Eugene’s lifetime support for De Bums. In 1949, as additional evidence, when a student at the City College of New York, Eugene met Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.
But, after moving to Rochester in 1969, slowly but inexorably, Eugene’s allegiance shifted to the Evil Empire also known as the New York Yankees. Eugene claims his turncoatedness is based on his subscription to The New York Times through which he follows the Bronx Bombers. I believe he is fickle and has commitment issues.
This summer Eugene and I have watched more Yankees’ games than by far in recent memory. When Eugene switched to Spectrum, he was adamant about keeping the YES (Evil Empire) Network, and seemed to follow each Yankee match. As the Yankees battled the (evil) Red Sox Nation, I often joined him nights or on the weekend.
But, as the season has been winding down in the last several weeks, I’ve noticed watching and caring less. Partially, the disinterest is because the Red Sox so dominated. But, much has to do with baseball’s continued misguided second wild card system.
In 1969, baseball expanded to 24 teams with four divisions, including league championships determining the the World Series’ participants. As a purist, I am loathe to dilute the significance of the regular season and the subsequent diminishing of the Series as all that matters. But, given reality, I accepted the necessity.
The result actually produced the golden age of baseball from 1969 – 1984. During that period, 16 best of 5 championship series were played. The best-of-five may not be the fairest way to choose a champion, but is the most dramatic. With 5 games packed into at most 6 days, every single pitch was important.
For example, the 1980 Astros-Phillies National League Championship Series is considered the most thrilling five game stretch in baseball history.
As seen in Baseball was better 45 years ago, in 1972, both the NLCS (Reds-Pirates) and ALCS (Tigers-A’s) went to five games in which both final games were decided by a run, including the Reds rallying with two in the bottom of the ninth. The Series was equally dramatic, going to a game seven again decided by a run.
In 1985, the Championship Series became a best of seven. Bad but liveable. Then in 1997, baseball expanded again, adding a third division and another round of playoffs, including a Wild Card team. With so many new teams, the purist in me bowed again to necessity. At least, we got back the five game series as was now the Divisional Series.
But in 2012, MLB pushed the envelope too far by adding a second wild card team and the abomination of the one game Wild Card playoff.
The second wild card has only further lessened the significance of the regular season and only further siphoned off the excitement of September pennant races. Do we even still have pennant races?
This year is a case in point. Our Yankees fell way behind the Red Sox, but were a shoe in for a wild card birth, one they clinched the other day.
As a Yankee fan, I am glad but as a baseball fan I am not. Right now the Yankees are tied with the A’s. Before 2012 and the second wild card, we would be having a barn burner of a race between the two. Not anymore. The last few weeks of the season are anti-climactic as we simply await that distortion of baseball, the one game wild card game. Ho hum. No wonder I’ve lost interest.
Before 2012, the National League race would be especially compelling with three teams battling for one spot with a myriad of tiebreaking possibilities. Now it’s merely three teams for two spots. And, two of those teams might come from the same division rendering the regular season even more pointless. Ho hum.
Eliminate the Wild Card Game, please.
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