Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The wild card years fly by

I may have mentioned here before one of my pet observations about how age affects how we perceive time. For a five-year old, a year is one-fifth of her existence; indeed, it feels like more, since she doesn't actively remember the first three or so. For a 60-year-old, a year is a much smaller piece of the pie.

This has a specific baseball-related (and Twins related) point. I became a baseball fan in 1969, which coincidentally was the first year of divisional play. The Twins were put in the American League West, and there they remained until baseball went to three divisions and added wild cards to the playoff mix.

The Twins in that alignment were placed in the AL Central, and there they have remained. That happened in 1994.

So the Twins were in the AL West for 25 years. They have now been in the AL Central 24 years. Next year they will have been in the Central for as long as they were in the West. And baseball will have been using wild cards in the postseason as long as it had just four teams in October. It doesn't seem possible.

This came to mind in large part because I was mulling over my continued disdain for the wild card. The idea that a team can be second (or now even third) best in its division and still win the championship does not sit well with me. It didn't 25 years ago, it doesn't today, it won't if I've still capable of contemplating such things 25 years from now.

Much as I would like the Twins to get into the tournament, I cannot make a case for them as a deserving champion.

I have, to be sure, the same problem with the 1987 team, and I have certainly had no problem living with that cognitive dissonance. I am always careful to identify the 1987 Twins as "World Series champions." They were that, but they were not the best team in the league, much less in both leagues, that year. 1991, that's a different story.

It occurred to me that the 2017 Twins, flawed as they are, still have the best record of the old West division teams. The Angels, the Athletics, the Mariners, the Rangers, the Royals, the White Sox -- they all have lesser records this year than the Twins. That doesn't mean much, really, with all the changes since 1993 -- interleague play, unbalanced schedules, an additional team in the AL, the Brewers and Astros trading places -- but it makes me feel a little better, a little more rooted.

1 comment:

  1. It is an imperfect system, to be sure. But, I think there is no need to over-complicate this.

    A World Series, is always tilted. The winner simply needs to beat their opponent four times. It does not account for key injuries, rest at the right time, or how certain teams match up against each other.

    Think about Cleveland's incredible 22 game run? There has been nothing so impressive in years. Yet, their batters could hit slumps, the bull-pen could fail, a key injury and they could lose their first series.

    So, we just need to accept what is. Like life, it is never perfect.