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October Baseball again

Here’s the idea: at the end of 162 games, each league has a pennant-winner based entirely on wins and losses during the season. That’s it. No World Series, no playoffs, just the season and the pennant, the way Uncle Nick Young meant it to be. Also, no All-Star Game in July. In October, after the season is over, we have an All-Star mini-season of 21 games in six cities. Actually, seven cities, or six cities and a town: the first game is a Hall-of-Fame Game at Cooperstown, NY. Then they do a four-city tour of three games each at the second- and third-place cities of each league, and then four games each at the two pennant winners. Obviously, the league that wins 11 or more games is the champion for the year.

That was how I wrote up my preferred end to the season, back in 2010. My Giants hadn’t won the World Series since 1954. Since then, they have brought three championship trophies back to San Francisco, and now they are playing the Wildcard Game. For those uninitiated who have read this far, the Major League Baseball championship is currently determined thusly: there are two leagues, each with three five-team divisions. The teams with the best record in each division advance to the best-of-five quarter-final round, called the Division Series (a misnomer, as it does not determine the division champions). The fourth quarter-finalist (called the Wildcard) in each league is determined by a single game played between two non-division-winning teams with the best records in that league, irrespective of their divisions. The winners of the quarter-finals meet in a best-of-seven semi-final round, called the League Championship (which does, in fact, determine the champion of each league) and the winners of those matches play in the best-of-seven World Series to claim the trophy.

It’s a pretty reasonable set-up for building interest in the final games, and thus building revenue for the league. It’s also a month of baseball that is very different from the kind of baseball played during the season. For one thing, in the Giants last Championship year, they played 17 games in 29 days; the AL winning Royals played only 15. Last year, the World Champion Royals played 16 games in 28 days. In a normal four-week stretch during the season a team might play 24 or 25 games. Teams are compelled to use five starters in the regular season and only four in the playoffs (and sometimes three). Madison Bumgarner started six of those 17 playoff games in 2015 for us—more than one in three!—as opposed to 33/162 or almost exactly one in five during the year. A team can ride one hot batter for a couple of weeks during the summer as well as in the fall, but in October it counts. I hate that.

My Giants will be playing the Mets tonight for the chance to play the Cubs in the NLDS. I don’t know what odds people are giving, but I am optimistic that we will win tonight. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s even possible that we’ll manage to win the whole thing again; I’d put the odds no worse than 9-1 against. Such fun! And yet… after all the joy and excitement of the last seven years, I haven’t changed my mind. If they wanted to set up Major League Baseball to suit me—and they should not—I still like the All-Star mini-season better than the postseason. It still annoys me that teams get built for the playoffs, and it even irritates me that the great Madison Bumgarner is (somewhat) overrated because of his postseason heroics.

I mean, so long as there are playoffs, I’m happy to be in ’em every other year. But if any of y’all were wondering if Giant Success had changed my mind about October Baseball, well, not yet it hasn’t.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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