October is a special time of the year if you are an American sports fan. The NFL season is in full swing and the NHL and NBA return, bringing out the aspirations of a fresh season for fans worldwide. Yet for me, the reason for the season is the MLB playoffs.
The 2022 season for the MLB stands out for numerous reasons, such as the National League adopting the designated hitter position, meaning both halves of the MLB will be operating under the same rules for the first time since 1973, and more importantly for October baseball, a drastic change in the playoff format for the MLB.
The new format now allows for 12 teams, instead of the usual 10, to compete for a spot in the coveted World Series and awards the highest-seeded team in each respective league a bye week.
The format change has already benefited two hopeful teams in the National League and possibly caused the downfall of two contending juggernauts.
Two National League wild card teams: the sixth-seed Philadelphia Phillies (who would have not made the playoffs under last year’s format) and the fifth-seed San Diego Padres took down their respective regional rivals in National League Divisional Series.
The Phillies defeated last year’s champion, the Atlanta Braves, in a dominant 3-1 playoff series record, and more shockingly, the San Diego Padres defeated the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers in another commanding 3-1 victory, causing quite a commotion in the baseball community and a questioning of the playoff change.
Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman, Baseball commentators and hosts of “The Show:” A New York Post baseball podcast, discussed the change during their Oct. 19 episode and its effect on the sport, debating whether or not such upsets should have been even possible.
“We see upsets all the time with seven-game series so to assume it’s much fairer, I don’t believe that. They play 162 games for a season for a reason,” said Heyman.
“The other sports all get celebrated when this happens. Last year everyone loved the Super Bowl. [Cincinnati] Bengals and [Los Angeles] Rams, they were both four seeds,” said Sherman, adding “Last year the [Phoenix] Suns won like 64 games, they had eleven more wins than the [Dallas] Mavericks and they got bounced in the playoffs.”
While I agree with the two gentlemen, some argue that a bye week is actually harmful to teams that have played on a consistent schedule for nearly seven months and that such a disruption has negative consequences for division winners and harms season-long success.
Yet I disagree with this notion entirely. In the American League, both the Yankees and Astros, two teams who won their respective division, decisively advanced to the American League Championship Series. Why couldn’t the Braves and Dodgers?
Because you don’t get awarded a World Series win at the end of the regular season.
Rookie pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, Spencer Strider, famously said about their division rival the New York Mets that they “seem to be having a lot of luck right now offensively. That’s great. It’s August. [We’ll] see what things are like in October.”
The state of what things were like in October for the Braves is reflected by their performance and subsequent elimination. That’s baseball, and there’s no crying in baseball.