As we know, a 98-win Pirates squad got sent home days before the 92-win Dodgers and 90-win Mets took the field. It was a shame.
Here comes another shame: The 97-win Cubs, after following its Wild Card win with an electrifying NLDS victory over St. Louis, will NOT have home-field advantage in the NLCS.
We’re days away from more further wailing and gnashing of teeth – if it arrives at all. But there should be, even if it’s a different kind of debate.
Despite some calls to the contrary, it’s difficult to imagine the present playoff qualification system being changed. Division winners are rewarded with an automatic berth in the Division Series after outclassing their competitors over the course of a long season. Winning something that can go on a commemorative banner has always been a big deal in baseball, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Plus, the excitement generated by the win-or-it’s-over Wild Card games is too much fun for fans. Baseball won’t do anything to change that.
But here’s the thing. The Wild Card winners have played their way into the Division Series by literally proving they can win in the post-season. They should be rewarded for that, by way of re-seeding once each league is down to its final four. The teams with the two best records get home field. Such a change would spare us from this year's inequity.
Baseball is an everyday game, and a grind. A. Grind. Over the course of a long campaign, the Cubs finished five games better than the Dodgers and seven ahead of the Mets. Those are significant gaps. There’s no reason Wrigley Field – and its capacity for euphoric, open-air celebrations -- shouldn’t be the site for, at least, Game 1 and Game 2 of the NLCS.
Since the start of the current playoff system in 2012, there have been four occasions in which all the division winners finished with better records than the Wild Card teams – this year in the American League, last year in both leagues, and the AL in 2013. When that happens, there’s no need to re-seed. But this is not one of those years. Come Saturday night, the eyes of baseball should be on Wrigleyville, not Flushing Meadows or Chavez Ravine.
That’s where the party’s going to be anyway.