“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
-Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America
Whenever I listen to Sam Cooke sing “A Change is Gonna Come,” I get a little shiver up and down my spine. The same thing happened Tuesday night as President Elect Obama channelled the soul of this fellow Chicagoan in his already famous speech to supporters in Grant Park.
Without a doubt, Election Day 2008 heralded a sea change in American politics. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a realist. I don’t think that President Obama will be able to accomplish in four years all that he promised over the course of a 21 month campaign. But, hope still springs eternal. And if nothing else, he has redefined the rules of the game.
However, moving beyond the rhetoric and the fascination with this singular event in our nation’s history, what would I like to see happen?
Well, to begin with, I hope Obama was more than talk when he said during Monday Night Football that he thinks there should be a College Football Playoff. You’re 75 days away from being the most powerful man in the world. Make it happen, sir.
Yes, there are more important challenges at hand (the economy, our incoherent foreign policy, Indian pitchers) but forcing the hand of holdouts like Big Ten commissioner, James Delany, would endear Obama to even the most stubborn Republican voter. How could a Georgian not vote for a president who accomplished a playoff system after the travesty they believe befell their Bulldogs last season? And what SEC or Big 12 fan wouldn’t admit they had just a little more respect for a man who made sure their teams at least got a shot at the title every year.
However, I am a little worried. What if President Obama issues an Executive Order declaring that his hometown White Sox are to be champions of the AL Central every year that he’s in office, regardless of their record? Granted, I don’t expect the Tigers to put up much of a fight next year but what about 2 or 3 years from now, when they’ve had a chance to retool? Do I have to remind you that Ozzie Guillen is Venezuelan, just like Hugo Chavez. Coincidence? I think not.
But, for now, while the world still seems like a land of wonder and opportunity, I think I’ll just focus on what has happened and what it means.
As of this morning, the NL Central had three teams ten games
over 500 while the NL West leader is barely at .500!
If the playoffs started right now, one superior team would be completely
left out while one mediocre team would get to compete for the World
Series title. Should Major League
Baseball reexamine the playoff structure so that it actually sends the 4 best
teams from each league to the playoffs?
If so, how would you propose this be done?
Ever since 1969, when MLB first started using a playoff system to determine who would play for the World Series, purists have decried the vulgarization of the sport. And when the playoff system was expanded even further in 1994 so more teams could be involved, the old-timers cried themselves to sleep, I’m sure. However, as anyone who follows this blog is aware, I am not one to yearn for the good ol’ days. Baseball is entertainment and as such, it exists to make money. More teams in the playoffs means more money for the sport which means better facilities and the ongoing vitality of the game. But, there are downsides.
And the system could stand some revamping. As you point out, if the playoffs started today, a mediocre team would be in while an excellent team would be watching from home. On top of that, when you realize that due to the arbitrary makeup of the leagues a good team in a bad division has a much better chance at making the playoffs than an excellent team in a very competitive division, well, you can see how this creates a recipe for disaster. But the situation is not unprecedented.
Each year the BCS picks the two best teams in the nation to go at it in the National Championship game but every year controversy surrounds the pick. A two-loss LSU team gets in over a undefeated Hawaii squad? Yeah, LSU is better but they lost a couple games. And how are they better than a 2-loss Georgia team that went out and destroyed that undefeated Hawaii team?
NCAA football at least has a system that tries to take everything into account when deciding who will play in the championship. MLB randomly assigned teams to leagues and divisions and then wonders why people complain when a sub-par Cubs squad makes it in while a decent Padres team sits back in San Diego wondering how it all went wrong.
Suggestions exist for how the situation could be improved and it’s no surprise that Billy Beane would be putting it out there (scroll down to the very last item in the article). I don’t agree with both of his points because I don’t necessarily think the Division series’ need to be expanded but a new seeding format couldn’t hurt.
However, the likelihood of things changing soon is pretty small. If anything, maybe they’ll try to do like the NFL and expand the playoffs a little but it sure won’t be in a way that makes sense. What matters to the owners is that MLB continues to make money and teams like Boston, the Yankees and the Cubs that maximize MLB’s return on their investment continue to make it in. That’s just how it is.
Now, on a side note, a specter came back to haunt me today that now firmly roots me in the anti Cubs camp. As I was watching the scroll at the bottom of the screen on ESPN, a familiar name popped out at me. The man who got the save for Chicago today? Samardzija. Now, that’s not a name you see every day and the only other time I’ve ever heard it was was in reference to a receiver for the University of Notre Dame. And it’s the same guy. I’m sorry but I just can’t stand by as the Irish invade everything. Fighting Irish, that is. It’s bad enough that I have to accept them in the NFL but now they’re showing up in MLB as well? No, that’s just too far. And so to the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry I say, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Just had to get that out there. I feel much better now.