The NL East, The AL East, And A Simple Dream

Flushing, NY,USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence (3) flied out to left during the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Ten teams play in either the AL East or NL East. All ten are over .500. All ten are within three games of the division lead.

It's a quirky thing, sure. While the egalitarian in me likes to see entire divisions free of derelicts and ne'er-do-wells, it's not likely to continue. There will be injuries. There will be regression. The entropy of baseball will ruin everything.

But this is a sport for dreaming. The odds of the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series on September 1? Very, very low, mostly because they didn't play the World Series on September 1. But even the odds of them winning the World Series that eventually was played? Frightfully low. So many things had to happen. Pitchers on other teams had to get injured. Players on other teams had to take a walk at just the right time in meaningless games. Millions of cosmic tumblers had to click into place. And yet it did happen. Baseball is what happens when you're screwing around, trying to figure out the odds.

There were Cardinals fans who dreamed an impossible dream, who never lost faith last year. That faith was rewarded. There was a poetry to it. So I'm going to keep my faith. The purity of my dream will see us through the dark times, when we start to entertain doubts. If the dream is realized, the world will be an improbably better place. Share my dream.

Five-way tie for first place.

Either division. Pick one of them. National League East or American League East. Five-way tie for first place.

I truly, deeply love the game of baseball. But I think I'd love that specific chaos even more. Do you think there's a secret dossier in the vaults about a five-way tie for the division? I think there is. And I think it's a doodle that Bud Selig drew on hotel stationery when he was on a conference call. The doodle was of him emptying a bank account and moving to Paraguay to start a trampoline-basketball league. Because screw that noise. Ain't no way a five-way tie for the division lead is going to make sense.

Put another way, here's an article about a four-way tie for the Wild Card back in 2007:

The losers then play Tuesday to decide the wild card. A Diamondbacks-Phillies game would be played in Philadelphia. A Padres-Phillies game would be in San Diego. And if the Mets are involved, they would play Arizona or San Diego at home, but they would have to go to Coors Field if they wind up playing it off with Colorado. Amazingly, the Mets and D-backs didn't find any of that out until Thursday, because back when the original wild-card scenarios were determined, nobody at MLB apparently envisioned that those scenarios would include New York or Arizona. Uh, oops. So a whole lot of frantic coin-flipping went on Thursday to sort all this out.

I blacked out. I have no idea if this supports my point or not. But that's for four teams from two divisions, and one Wild Card. Now imagine five teams, one division, and two Wild Cards. And because of the unbalanced schedules, both of those Wild Cards would have to come out of the division in question, too. Five teams sitting at 90-72.

There would be coin flips. Oh, god, the coin flips.

Selig: This is for the play-in game to determine who gets to be the road team for the play-in game for the second Wild Card. Okay, call it in the air.

Terry McGuirk: Bullshit.

Selig: I'm sorry, what?.

Terry McGuirk: You said 'call it in the air.' I called bullshit.

Selig: You have to call 'heads' or 'tails.'

Terry McGuirk: I know. I called bullshit.

Other sports have to deal with this sort of thing. The NFL has two wild cards and all sorts of tie-breaking mechanisms. The fans are used to it. It's a 16-game season in a sport that requires too much rest for play-in games. There are point differentials, versus-records, and all sorts of other nonsense. There has to be. And when it gets close to the last game of the season, everyone's expecting it.

But in baseball, ho man. Nothing of the sort. You either have the best record, or you don't. And if you don't, you play a damned game to get into the playoffs. In that scenario above, there are a couple of play-in games.

Five-way tie for first place. What would that even entail? Would one team be awarded the division title because of intra-divisional record? And would there be two playoff games to see who got into the play-in game to play in the NLDS, while the team with the best intra-divisional record sat back and picked their teeth with a hayseed? A round-robin of playoff games? There isn't a good answer. And that's why it's the best answer.

It would be glorious. Absolutely glorious. Teams would get hosed. But it would be so danged worth it. There are ten teams within spitting distance of six different playoff spots right now. All they need to do is keep on keepin' on. Massage those records. Help the greatest sport in the land realize the most beautiful dream in its history. Come on, Eastern divisions. Just one of you. We need your help.

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