This is for the commentariat that wants nothing more than to type the words, “Who cares? Baseball sucks.” Just know we all hate you as though you were skin lesions, and that we can still change your mind. We just need to create more baseball, even if that means creating baseball that even the people who run baseball don’t have thoughts on yet, because Rob Manfred making shit up as he goes along is the best Rob Manfred there is.
And remember, this is Baseball 2021, in which the Cy Young Award winner and home run champion can be the same guy, in which a team can play in three home fields in the same year, in which people can be fired for refusing to vaccinate, and an umpire can chase away an entire grounds crew and make it look so much like a mass ejection that we all wish it had been one.
So yes, we need more of all of it, although the Cy Young/homer thing ends on schedule in three Sundays because Shohei Ohtani had the poor sense to sign with a team that is chained to .500 like it was a basement radiator. And while the technical explanations for all potential wild card tiebreakers were handled well enough by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, he didn’t give us the blood and guts we need, starting with:
DODGERS-GIANTS: They tie for the NL West title on the final day of the season, have to play the next day in San Francisco for the right to determine who goes home and waits for the other to beat either Cincinnati, St. Louis, or San Diego. Hoping for the Dodgers here because of the heightened chance for some bench-emptying brawls and the winning hit in Game 7 from the crabmeat special that is Cody Bellinger. This has the best chance of happening, with all due respect to the idea that the hero won’t be Bellinger, and it has the best chance of lingering in the spleens of both fan bases all the way through to November 15, when the Rams and 49ers play.
CARDINALS-PADRES-REDS: Of these three, only St. Louis is playing like the wild card matters, but Defector’s favorite team (just ask them individually, and in private) only makes this work if it can pitch Adam Wainwright every day. The beauty here is that it can work even if only two teams tie, but it is much better if A plays B for the right to play C. The rule here is, the more confusing the format, the better it is.
BLUE JAYS-RED SOX-YANKEES: Same, only there is one rooting interest only and that is Toronto’s lineup, which has 80 RBIs from six of its nine spots and would have had a seventh if George Springer hadn’t been playing Injury Bingo all year.
BRAVES-METS-PHILLIES: Injury-riddled, feh and blah. This is least likely only because the Mets are five behind the Braves and the Phillies are the Phillies, but we don’t need good baseball in October—just more baseball. You’ll hate yourself, but 27 bonus innings is 27 bonus innings, and hey, maybe the Braves will treat you to an eighth catcher before the season ends.
And finally, the granddaddy of them all, REDS-CARDINALS-METS-PADRES-PHILLIES: Castrovince bloodlessly describes it this way: “Technically still a possibility in the NL for the second Wild Card spot. As of this writing, MLB does not yet have an official procedure in place for such an unusual—and, yes, highly unlikely—scenario. The Commissioner’s Office, with input from the Competition Committee, would come up with a plan if the need becomes clear in the final days of the season.”
It’s that last sentence that makes this all worthwhile, even though there is also the possibility of a five-way tie for two wild card spots in the AL that we haven’t the wit to figure out why Castrovince ignored it. Either way, give us Manfred soaked in flop sweat while five owners who have spent $876 million this year on players (including $12 million on Braves catchers alone) demand a system that favors them and them alone. That is exactly the way we want the playoffs to begin, because while more games is better, more games created by a system made up over beers, blunts, wings, and math deficiencies is the best way to make baseball more relevant to a new generation. To have Manfred come and say for the first time ever, “I have no idea what we just did, but we’re done doing it,” would humanize him in a way that replacing him with a human would only partially solve.
Now we can’t have all of the above, only because we haven’t behaved well enough as a species to do so. And we may not get any of the above, because getting one’s hopes up for no delivery is as baseball as putting electrifying players on the Angels and watching them disappear. But more games are always better than fewer games, and the idea that a thing could happen that isn’t covered even by these rules is too sweet not to happen at least once.
Besides, the race to see if the Orioles lose 100 games before the Diamondbacks do (the drama resumes Friday in Boston and Houston) isn’t quite as compelling as we’ve hoped. But maybe Baltimore will fly up its grounds crew, stick them all in uniforms and put them in the bullpen just in case.