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Cards Clinch! (And the Future of the MLB Postseason…)

The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot. Well…sort of.

With one game left in the regular season, the Redbirds edged their way into the October tournament with a Dodgers loss – a one run event that saw the LA team squander opportunities while a conflicted San Francisco squad bounced between concern for their own star players and an obligation to maintain at least the appearance of tough competition.

Zito was good, if not great, and Bochy made enough pitching changes that one would think he was doing his best Tony La Russa impression – but Buster Posey, the Giants’ MVP-level catcher, played first base for most of the game before leaving in the 8th, and more than one Giants players seemed to be more than a bit distracted with their occasional sloppy play in the field.

But in the end, it will be Mark Ellis’ ill-advised attempt to stretch a double into a triple that most fans will remember. He was easily thrown out at third, and when Victorino followed the out with a true triple of his own…no one scored. Of course, I’m sure no one considered the fact that had Ellis stopped at second base and Victorino – finding himself in a different hitting situation that would demand a different pitching approach – simply flied out to right field with less than two outs, the criticism of Ellis would instead be colored by a different question.

“Why didn’t he advance to third when that ball got by Pagan?”

Dodger fans may be disappointed in what could have been a magical season for a fan base finally freed from the McCourt melodrama, but Cardinal fans are waking up this morning feeling very….uh….confused?

They say a tie is like kissing your sister. If that’s the case, what does it feel like to score the second Wild Card spot because the team trailing you lost while your team sits approximately six games behind the first Wild Card team?

I think maybe it feels like kissing your grandmother. Let’s be honest…no one likes that sticky, wrinkly smooch that greets you at the door every Christmas…but if that’s the price of getting more presents, then you’ll pucker up and endure it.

Or…in the words of Chuckie from Sons of Anarchy: “I accept that.”

All this has me thinking about the future. What will the MLB playoffs look like in 15 or 20 years when the glamour of roughly a third of MLB teams making the postseason has worn off? Right now, the push is to “get into” the playoffs in October. Teams make moves in July, sign expensive offseason acquisitions, and launch involved marketing plans centered around the hope of playing in a single “winner take all” elimination game.

But what about when the playoffs are expanded yet again? Is it that difficult to envision a scenario where teams no longer try to “make the playoffs” but rather seek to avoid being eliminated from them? Hmmm…what would that look like?

I give you…the 2025 MLB Round Robin Tournament in October!

In this exciting era of Major League Baseball, all but the last place teams in each division make postseason play. Of course, there would have to be a special provision that prevents 100 loss teams from making the tournament as well regardless of division finish (see: Cubs and Astros in 2012), but you get the point.

Instead of a 1-game play-off followed by NLDS/ALDS, NLCS/ALCS, and WS…the postseason would be a Round Robin tournament – beer league softball style! Each team plays every other team in a flurry of games to determine seeding. Then, we enter a double elimination style round with both a winner’s and loser’s bracket. Lose and you go to the loser’s bracket to play other teams with one loss. Lose again…and you’re out. Last two teams standing play out the best of 10 World Series (just like Scott Boras intended).

Yeah…it’s sickening to think of where the MLB postseason is headed, especially when you consider that MLB is never going to actually get rid of Wild Card spots (shrink the field of play and you lose a ton of money). But hey…there is one concession…something the Reds already seem to be catching onto if recent pics of their celebration are any indication…

In that future MLB Postseason Round Robin Tournament…how much you wanna’ bet that every team gets a trophy?

Hey…the Cards are in the playoff picture, and that’s light years ahead of how they followed their 2006 Championship in 2007…so drink to that and enjoy Friday’s game. Should be a wild ride in Atlanta.

GO CARDS!!!

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