The Pirates are going to be in the playoffs. For the first time since Barry Bonds's throw was too late to nab Sid Bream, the Pirates are going to be in the playoffs.
The Reds are going to be in the playoffs. They made it last year, but they have a surprisingly dry recent history, too. We're almost 23 years from their surprising win against the A's, and they've won just one playoff series since then.
The two teams start a three-game series on Friday … that's basically a three-game playoff to see who gets home-field advantage for the one-game playoff. Which is strange. But it's been a long, long slog for both teams. They'll have gone through six months and 162 games, but they'll have made the playoffs. They did it. They're playing baseball in October.
And before the first day of October is over, one of them will be hanging out with the Astros and White Sox.
Oh, man, that's cruel.
So it goes for the new Wild Card winners. If you don't win your division, you don't get a free ride into the playoffs as an equal. YOU HEAR ME, MARLINS?
/Marlins look over, give thumbs-up, continue tinkling on Abner Doubleday's grave
Oh, they know Doubleday isn't really the guy who invented baseball. They're just thorough.
But while I like the new system of making it just a little more difficult for Wild Card winners to advance, this brings up an interesting question. On October 1, the Reds and Pirates will start the playoffs. On October 2, one of the Reds or Pirates will be out of the playoffs.
So are the winners of the first and second Wild Cards both in the playoffs?
We're in a raft, navigating the semantical rapids, here, so hang on. According to baseball, absolutely. The Wild Card winners are in the playoffs. There are 10 playoff teams, even if only eight of them get to play in the Division Series. When you look at Adrian Beltre's postseason statistics, they include the ALWC in the same section as the ALDS, ALCS, and WC. If someone with a 55-game hitting streak going fails to get a hit in the Wild Card game, they get to keep the streak going on Opening Day.
Technically, yes. Both the Reds and Pirates are in the playoffs, you silly person. This is like asking if someone in the lobby buying popcorn is at the movies. No, they're not watching an anthropomorphic box of popcorn sing before the movie starts … but, yes, they're at the movies. By definition.
The other day, though, it took me a bit to remember there were 10 teams in the playoffs. I was thinking about the National League, and I spent a few minutes going over the seasons of the Reds, Cardinals, Nationals, and Giants. The Braves didn't make a cameo until later. Oh, right. The Braves. It was an eventful game and everything.
But when I think of the 2012 National League Playoffs -- something I generally don't do unless I'm driving, in the shower, eating, lying in bed about to go to sleep, lying in bed about to wake up, not eating, watching TV, or just hangin' out in general -- I don't think of the Braves. They were a playoff mayfly, gone before we even had a chance to analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
Before you start yelling at me, note that this is me being hypocritical. Because in 1998, I considered the Giants a playoff team. They were tied with the Cubs at the end of the regular season, and there was a one-game playoff. It was too awkward to continually write things like, "The Giants have made it past the 162nd game in three of the last four seasons …", so I just started inferring that '98 was a playoff season. No one cared. Made sense.
When the NLDS and ALDS start, though, there will be eight teams with bunting around their ballparks. Each of those teams will get a home game or two. There will be ups and downs, and challenges they'll all have to fight through over the week.
There will be two teams drinking Boone's in the back of a Greyhound station, wondering what happened. One-hundred-and-sixty-two games ... for three hours? That's like waiting for wagyu beef to age so you can make a smoothie out of it. The other teams will remember a playoff series or three. The losing team will think about everything that went wrong for a day.
I'll refer to them all as playoff teams because it's easier that way. But I don't like it. The playoffs are coming. And we'll know what the series matchups will be early next week. But until then, I'm not really sure who's actually in the playoffs.
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