Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One right, one wrong for MLB this post-season

Would the A.L. Central title game have had a different outcome if Game 163 was played in Minnesota instead of Chicago? Maybe or maybe not. We'll never know.

The Twins and their fans remain upset following their 1-0 loss to the White Sox in Chicago about the game having been played in Chicago. They point out that the Twins took the season series from the White Sox by one game. They have a valid point on that one.

Such an important game should not be decided by a coin toss, especially because "that's the way it has always been". I agree it is time to change that system. Hopefully MLB will revise this during the off-season and have a new policy for tie-breakers ready for 2009, before we know which teams might be involved.

But this doesn't mean that this year's game should not have been played in Chicago. In many cases, I agree that a season series between two teams should be the way to determine a tie-breaker. But until or unless MLB does something about its oddball and unbalanced schedules, I'm not sure I agree in this instance.

The fact is that the White Sox vs. Twins game was played specifically to decide the winner of the A.L. Central Division. While I don't like most of the changes in MLB over the past 12 years, I love the fact that a championship was decided on the field and not past results. This game added to the drama, and would have even if it had not been a 1-0 game.

Sure, MLB could have decided the division champion without this game. They could have based it on head-to-head competition between the two teams, their records within the entire Central Division, records vs. the other playoff teams, or something else. But if they had, the drama of the White Sox having to defeat three different division rivals in three days to win the title never would have happened. Now that it has, there is reason to be sure that MLB keeps it this way.

I couldn't help but think about the season the Chicago Bears made the NFL playoffs because of "point differential" by running up the score in their season finale against the Cardinals, who had nothing to play for. Compare that with the drama in Chicago in their games vs. Detroit and Minnesota. As a sports fan, which way would you prefer it?

I thought so.

So why should the White Sox vs. Twins game indeed have been held in Chicago? Because the most important criteria to determine this game's location was not taken into consideration. Had it been, no doubt the game would have taken place in the same park it did.

Since this game was for first place, and not a tiebreaker between the White Sox and Twins, I say the amount of time a team spends in first place during the season should count toward a title in the rare event of a dead heat. Fact is the White Sox spent all but two weeks (or less) of the entire season holding first place.

To me, that means Minnesota should have to overtake Chicago to finish there. On Chicago's turf. Or in this case, grass. It so happens that due to a coin toss, the game wound up in Chicago. Sorry, Twins fans, but that's where it should have been in, so to speak, the first place.

Fortunately, we were spared the embarassment of their having to be a game just to decide the Wild Card. (See my recent column about that.) But if the Mets and Brewers would have had to go through with it, there is no doubt that game should have been in New York. Nothing to do with the possible end of Shea Stadium at all.

Same formula. The Mets spent weeks in first place in their division, while the Brewers spent a few days there at most.

Let's make the amount of time a team spends on the field in first place count for something in MLB. The NFL can keep its tiebreakers for determining playoffs. Remember, even some overtime games are also decided by a coin flip. Which do you find more exciting?


At least that White Sox-Twins game turned out to be in the right place. Better than I can say for American League "Comeback Player of the Year". Cliff Lee???? Right player, wrong award. If there were a major award for "Most Improved Player", Cliff Lee wins it unanimously. However, the award reads "Comeback of the Year".

When was Cliff Lee ever at or even close to the level he showed this year. How can a guy who never won in double digits make a "Comeback" to win 22 games? He has never been there before. If this is how the people who vote are paying attention, I'll have to look to see how Cliff Lee fares in voting for the "Silver Slugger" Award. After all, he batted a couple of times against the National League this past season, and got more at-bats than he did in 2007. Makes about as much sense.

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