Saturday, October 6, 2012

Random thoughts: wild card edition

I didn’t think it was possible to mess up the new wild card format, but it took only one game to do it.

What should have been a feel-good story about Chipper Jones playing what turned out to be his last game in an Atlanta Braves uniform quickly turned ugly when the Braves fans created an incredibly dangerous situation for players and umpires alike by hurling debris on to the field. While not condoning their actions, I understand their frustration completely. I too couldn’t believe my eyes when the umpire called the infield fly rule on a popup well into left field. Technically, the play doesn’t have to be in the infield for the rule to apply, but umpires never make that call in the regular season and they were wrong to do so in a win-or-go-home scenario.

I understand that Major League Baseball needed to make a quick decision, but did anyone at the home office bother to view the video before they denied the Braves’ protest? The umpire clearly made a mistake, not of judgment as MLB would have you believe, but in his application of the infield fly rule. I know it would have been a scheduling nightmare, but Bud Selig and Joe Torre should have upheld the protest and ordered the game to be replayed from that point on. The St. Louis Cardinals may still have walked away victorious, but it would have removed any doubt that they deserved to move on to the division series

 * Much of my excitement over the new wild card format was the idea of recreating the magic of the last regular season game of 2011. That was all shot to hell with that terrible call in the first game and then a lackluster performance by the Texas Rangers against the annoyingly peppy Baltimore Orioles in the second game. Perhaps it’s just not possible to recreate what was a magical night of baseball. Or perhaps we should just let Major League Baseball try again next year and hope those teams put forth better efforts.

 * What a fall from grace for the Rangers. They, like the New York Yankees, had a division title in their grasp. But unlike the Yankees, who managed to win enough games against their division rivals in September to emerge victorious, the Rangers couldn’t muster one win against the surprising Oakland Athletics. The Rangers put themselves in a do-or-die situation and they died, even with their ace on the mound. Watching yesterday’s game, it didn’t seem like the Rangers even cared about moving on in the playoffs. It’s a stunning fall from grace for a team that I thought was building a legacy that would eventually result in a World Series, much as with the Braves in the early 1990s. It could still happen, but who knows if they have anything left, especially with Josh Hamilton possibly heading out the door

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