About half a century or so ago, this weekend would have marked the end of the Major League Baseball season for all but two teams. Prior to 1969, the winner of the American League would play the winner of the National League in the World Series. The first team to win four games was the champion. At the most, it took a week to decide the winner, and then everyone went home for the winter.
However, beginning in that last year of the decade that changed the world in many ways, MLB split into two divisions within each league, and thus was born the best-of-five League Championship Series. The two winners of those games then played in the World Series. Even so, the champion was still crowned well before the first Halloween costume hit the streets.
Alas, that’s no longer the case. To no one’s surprise, the powers-that-be at MLB quickly figured out that the more post-season games played, the more money flowed into baseball coffers. So, in the ensuing decades, more divisions were created, the concept of the wild card was introduced, and then that idea expanded to the point where now players on a team that keeps winning could conceivably still be vying for a World Series ring during the first week of November. And that team doesn’t even have to have anywhere close to the best record in its division to keep playing. This year, for example, the Philadelphia Phillies will finish somewhere around 15 games behind the Eastern-Division-winning Atlanta Braves. And yet, the Wild Card Phillies are playoff-bound. Plus, as I write this, it’s actually possible that at least a couple of teams which would be 20 or 21 games behind the Braves if they were in the same division, could also keep playing post-season ball.
In most cities in America that have major league teams, it’s getting cold in October, not to mention November. Not just chilly, but cold. As in maybe frost and snow on the ground. Baseball was designed as a warm weather sport. If you’ve ever hit a pitched ball with a bat when the temperature is under 50 degrees, you know it’s no fun. Catching a line drive is no picnic either. Matter of fact, it’s rather painful. Also, there ought to be no way the World Series should infringe upon Trick-or-Treat night.
I blame the NBA (National Basketball Association) and the NHL (National Hockey League) for leading baseball astray. There are only 30 NBA teams. Sixteen of them advance to its playoffs. Sixteen. Over half. If there are some really rotten teams in the league some years (and there usually are), it’s entirely possible a team could win only 30-40% of their regular season games and still be in contention. Same thing in hockey, except it’s 16 out of 32 teams. It’s like getting a participation trophy.
Which brings me to the other professional game being played right now. The second Republican debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Library in California this week. You may recall that participation in the first debate required candidates acquire a certain threshold of donors and contributions. This second round, with slightly more stringent qualifications, narrowed the field just a tiny bit. And, of course, the team that has the lead by far in the race to the nomination did not even participate in the event.
The Democratic party has decided it just flat out doesn’t want to play at all. Well, really, it’s the guy who presently owns the ball who doesn’t want to play.
That may change. There are a couple of presidential wannabes out in the hustings who may try and take on the league leader. Lately, a few more rumblings have been felt from some in the Party who feel as if maybe the analytics are saying it’s time for a change. The Governor of California is frequently mentioned as a possible contender. Gavin Newsome’s state, though, is often ranked near the top in “highest taxes” and “most homeless.” That’s kind of like saying, “Our team has the most strikeouts per hitter and the worst pitching in the league.” Not real solid ground on which to base a campaign.
Declared candidates Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Marianne Williamson keep begging for a stage show with Joe Biden but look for that debate to occur when they’re playing baseball on election day in November. Oh, wait a minute. That could happen!
At present, though, it’s hard to beat a guy who scored more runs than anyone else in the last election. The Biden campaign can currently simply ignore any playoff scenario. And until Donald Trump deigns to join the Republican fracas, are the GOP debates anything other than a Wild Card round?
©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer