Home > MLB > MLB Playoff Field Has All the Best Teams; Best Storylines Bound to Be Left Out

MLB Playoff Field Has All the Best Teams; Best Storylines Bound to Be Left Out

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The competitive structure of Major League Baseball has a lot of things going for it right now.  And with 6 of the 8 playoff spots claimed, we can now say that one of the major things that this playoff field has is quality teams at the peak of their popularity.  The Yankees, Twins, and Phillies are joined in the playoffs by upstarts such as the Rangers, Reds, and Rays.

Ultimately, I think this is a good development for baseball.  This is a sport that loves it’s tradition, however, it’s hard for me to see how teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Angels, and Cardinals would actually make this October more captivating.  Those haven’t been the best teams this season, and them limping into the playoffs would not make the field more impressive.

Problem is, the teams that are playing the best baseball right now are not the teams that would impress most observers the deeper they went into the playoffs.  This is not to intentionally overvalue a few games at the end of the month of September, but almost all the playoff teams are playing incredibly undistinguished baseball.  The Phillies have been the strongest team this month, but they’ve represented the NL in the World Series two straight years.  I think the worst fear of a lot of casual fans is that the Phillies make it back to the World Series in a year where the NL field includes at least three other teams that haven’t been in the postseason since 2005.  They are certainly good enough to do it.

On the AL side, the Yankees are the one team that all of baseball will benefit from going as far as they can.  The AL East might be the lone example of the playoff system benefiting from the rule that prevents LDS match-ups between a wild card team and the division leader in it’s division.  This is not the year that you would want to match the Rays and the Yankees in the first round — those are your two biggest divisional round draws in the American League.  The Rangers are a nice story reaching the top of the AL West in a down year, but they haven’t benefitted much at least in the regular season from acquiring Cliff Lee from the Mariners in July.  I can’t fathom the Rangers taking down either the Rays or the Yankees in a five game series.  The Twins are a much more formidable opponent, and I happen to think that Rays vs. Twins would be one heck of a series to follow.  However, if the Rays sweep the Kansas City Royals to win the division, we know that they will draw the Rangers in the first round.

The NL pool is a lot more interesting, in the opinion of this blog, if both the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres find their way into the playoffs.  At this point, that’s probably a long-shot ideal.  The position of the San Francisco Giants in the standings right now allows them to go .500 the rest of the year and limp in unless the Braves and Padres combine to go 7-2 or something in their remaining games.  It would really be some feat if the Giants were beat three or more times the rest of the year, given that they can throw their two aces, Lincecum and Cain in more than half of their remaining schedule, if necessary.  The Braves would qualify as “injury-riddled” at this point, with no Martin Prado or Chipper Jones for the playoffs, who were their 1 and 3 hitters for most of the year.  The Padres would be talent deficient.

The Reds have a horrendous record against playoff quality teams this year, and given that the profile of all teams you’d meet in the playoffs qualify under the class of teams the Reds struggle with.  The most likely match-up for the Reds right now is the Phillies — and though that match-up is far from a certainty — that’s a series that could be short lived.  If the Giants were to get knocked out early by the wild card winner (this isn’t to make a prediction), you’d have a weaker team playing the Phillies in the NLCS to prevent them from a third straight World Series berth.  As such, you can see why the Phillies are such a heavy favorite right now.  It’s just not obvious who can beat them.

Personally, I’d love to see the Braves buck their historical trends and go to the world series as a team who struggled for a long time after the break.  That would be the best storyline of the remaining possibilities, and the Braves have the inside track for the wild card as we speak.  While a repeat of a Phillies-Yankees World Series looms large over the playoff field, the early clinches of the Reds and Rangers as well as some of the stronger upstarts in the field suggest that 2010 has the ability to produce new October outcomes for baseball’s playoff season.

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  1. timmy
    November 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    the yankees are the best

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