In a feat never before seen in Major League playoff history, three teams winning 100 games or more in the regular season have missed the playoffs before the championship series.
Three ninths that amassed a 313-173 balance between them in the campaign have had to pack their bags heading home after being defeated by rivals who had to settle for entering the postseason via the wild card.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (111-51) and the champion Atlanta Braves (101-61) were eliminated on Saturday by the San Diego Padres (89-73) and the Philadelphia Phillies (87-75), respectively, to the surprise of the baseball world. .
In the wild card series, the New York Mets (101-61) were also eliminated by the Phillies themselves.
There has been a kind of rebellion from the so-called ‘bottom teams’ in these playoffs the likes of which has never been seen before. Only the Houston Astros (106-56) met expectations, sweeping the Seattle Mariners in three games to advance to the Championship Series.
For their part, the New York Yankees (99-63), another favorite, are one setback away from being out of contention against the Cleveland Guardians, a game that will be played on Sunday night.
What factors could be attributed to this chain of surprises? Simple intangibles that are very common in baseball or issues related to the format that was implemented for this year?
For this season, Major League Baseball approved the use of a new ranking system where 12 teams -and not ten- advanced to the playoffs. For each league, the two division champion teams with the best record advanced directly to the Division Series, taking a bye, while the third division leader had to play in a wild card series alongside the three wild cards.
The teams that acquired ‘bye’, understand the Yankees and the Astros for the American League, and the Dodgers and Braves for the National, had to wait four days while the wild card series was decided.
The two teams that took bye from the National ended up eliminated in the Division Series, while the Yankees are on the brink of elimination.
Edwin Rodriguez, a former major league and national manager, opined that while baseball fans have been able to enjoy seeing teams that are paper underdogs overcome each other and advance to the playoffs, the new format is not good for baseball.
“Baseball fans enjoy good games at any time. Seeing teams that are not the favorites by the experts, keep advancing, is always good for the game,” Rodríguez told The new day.
“But adding an intentional element with the new format that affects the result on the field is never attractive. That’s the case with the Dodgers, Braves and even the Yankees, who had to sit idle for five days before hitting the field again. It is no coincidence that two of these four teams that dominated the regular season are already eliminated (Dodgers and Braves), and another about to do so (Yankees)”, evaluated Rodríguez.
Both Los Angeles and Atlanta lost their series in four games against some tough and determined rivals who came hot from their respective wild card series. San Diego beat the Mets in their wild card series, while Philadelphia did the same with St. Louis.
“Some will say that what is equal is not an advantage, but with this format that is not the case. This inactivity is intentional on the part of MLB. This is why the Players Association did not agree with these changes, and it was even an important factor and a block in the negotiations of the last agreement”, Rodríguez recalled.
“I don’t think these new changes are negative for baseball, but I’m sure they’re not positive. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Players Association is addressing this issue as soon as the World Series is over. Even a World Series between the Padres and the Guardians would not be very attractive for the MLB audience,” Rodríguez continued.
On Tuesday the National League Championship Series will get underway between San Diego and Philadelphia to a maximum of seven challenges. It will begin at the Padres’ Petco Field.
In the AL, the Astros, who will now have home court advantage if they make it to the World Series, are waiting for the winner between Cleveland and the Yankees.