Erik Ritland’s Sports Ramble, 10/7/12

In this issue…

1.Baseball Ramble The new wild-card system, the playoffs, and Twins news
2. NFL Week 5 Preview

Baseball Ramble
Rush Job
The new and unimproved baseball playoff system

Chipper Jones says goodbye to fans during his last game, a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first and only one game wild-card playoff.

This year Major League Baseball added an extra Wild Card round to the playoffs. In it the teams that rightly won the Wild Card in the American and National Leagues play against the team directly behind them in the standings in a one game playoff to see who moves on to the Divisional Series. One game! It’s not fair, really. It’s also stupid.

The idea is that fans will enjoy it because it’s exciting. It would also be exciting if wild animals were let loose on the field as obstacles but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. More seriously, it’s not a good sign if baseball is more concerned with “adding excitement” than it is with what is fair. If this mentality continues who knows what kinds of other poor decisions they could make in the future.

One of the influences for this are the several “game 163” situations that have happened naturally throughout baseball history, including several times in the last few years. This happens when two teams end the 162-game season with identical records and need to play each other to see who gets into the playoffs. Those games are special, and exciting, because they don’t happen that often. If it’s every year it will lose that.

My high school sociology teacher taught me this great phrase: qui bono. That is, who benefits? It’s easy to see who benefits from this added playoff round: Major League Baseball. It’s another million dollars for the stadium that hosts the game, more time for television ads, more exposure, and on and on and on. That baseball is trying to play this off like they’re doing it for the fans is preposterous. They’re doing it to line their pockets, plain and simple. That it waters down the game – and makes the already unnecessarily long season and playoff structure even longer – doesn’t bother them at all. It’s always too bad when the almighty dollar prevails over what is right.

MLB Playoff Analysis

Due to the rule change, though, the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals both made the playoffs when they otherwise wouldn’t have, knocking off the Rangers and Braves respectively. While still unfair this is something I can get behind, as the Orioles are the feel-good story of the year and the Cardinals are my third favorite team (behind the Twins and whoever R.A. Dickey plays for).

The Cincinnati Reds made easy work of the San Francisco Giants in game one of their series and they didn’t even need to use their star pitcher Johnny Cueto who left the game after 8 pitches. Unfortunately for the Giants he is still scheduled to pitch in the series. With that in mind the one game hole that they’ve dug themselves looks pretty deep.

The Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland A’s pretty handily in the first game of their series, too. But they were actually facing Detroit’s ace Verlander; the rest of their rotation isn’t nearly as good (though it isn’t bad) and that is good for the A’s. Plus their rotation is more solid. These factors, combined with the hot/cold nature of the Tigers stacked lineup, make me think that they still could win the series. And I hope they do.

The Orioles and Yankees match up reminds me of so many Twins-Yankees series of yesteryear. On paper the Orioles are fairly outmatched. The difference is that the Orioles have some momentum after both finishing the season well and beating the highly favored Texas Rangers in the wild-card. If the Orioles pitchers stay solid and their slightly above average lineup takes advantage of every opportunity they get they’ll have a chance. Seeing as this is how they did so well in the 2012 season it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.

The Cardinals have their work cut out for them against the potent Washington Nationals. But like the Tigers the Nationals rotation dips off a bit after Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez. The Cardinals have three pitchers with his potential in Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Kyle Lohse. They’ll have to pitch tight games and get the right hits at the right time – something they seem to do well in the playoffs – to overcome the superior Nationals.

The remainder of the Twins coaching staff – manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson.

In The News

–         The Twins shake things up – sort of The Twins announced this week that they are letting go of or demoting every coach on the major league staff except for pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire. This is a confusing move. What did the bullpen coach have to do with the last two abysmal Twins season? Or the third base coach? It’s a head scratcher. These moves were probably made by the organization to make it look like they’re “doing something” about how bad the team has performed lately in an attempt to placate fans. But this move will not cover up the fact that the last two nearly 100-loss seasons had little to do with the fired coaches and more to do with the penny-pinching Pohlads refusing to pick up a decent pitcher (and former GM Bill Smith’s incompetence). It’ll be hard to have confidence in the Twins next year unless they pick up at least two pitchers that are twice as good as our current “ace” Scott Diamond.

NFL Week 5 Preview

Three Games

Denver at New England Both the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos are having some difficulty finding their mojo this year. They have both lost to teams they should have beaten and have not played as well as their teams appear on paper. However, last week New England went crazy in the second half against the Bills, erasing a 21-0 deficit and ultimately winning 52-21. They’ll carry that momentum in to this game and redeem themselves for their last home game – a shocking loss to the Arizona Cardinals. New England 31, Denver 27

I always love that one.

Atlanta at Washington The Atlanta Falcons, while predicted to do well this year, have exceeded even those expectations. Matt Ryan is starting to finally look like an elite quarterback, they have a deep batch of receivers, and their defense is slightly above average. The Redskins were a question mark coming into the season, as their success hinged on how well RGIII could adapt to the NFL. While he has adapted pretty well the Redskins have stumbled a bit after their initial success early in the season. This game will be a shootout but being all fired up at home will help Washington prevail. Washington 34, Atlanta 31

Tennessee at Minnesota Like the Common Man Dan Cole, one of my heroes, I have always taken the esoteric approach to sports, sports, sports. This is my esoteric approach to this game: the Vikings are riding high after two exciting, unexpected wins against the 49ers and the Lions. They’re at home and they’re playing a team that isn’t very good so it’s expected that they’ll win. Being a Vikings fan my whole life – and a Minnesota fan in general – I know what all of this inevitably adds up to: a lack of effort leading to an embarrassing loss. Titans 17, Vikings 13

The rest…

Miami at Cincinnati
Green Bay at Indianapolis
Baltimore at Kansas City
Cleveland at NY Giants
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh
Seattle at Carolina
Chicago at Jacksonville
Buffalo at San Francisco
San Diego at New Orleans

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics are cataloged regularly at Ramblin’ On. You can reach him via email here.



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