There is way too much champagne found in major league clubhouses in October.
It has increasingly been said in recent years that the pile-on-the-mound, bubbly-spraying, lap-of-honour running, commemorative-t-shirt-producing events at the end of the season are getting out of hand – there are just too many of them. There’s a big party for winning the division, then there’s a big party for winning the division series, then there’s a big party for winning the championship series, and then there’s the biggest party for winning the World Series. At every stage, players act as if they’ve won the World Series whereas all they’ve done is get a step further.
Winning the Division is worthy of celebration, certainly: you just came top out of 4-6 teams over 162 games. But the Division Series and Championship Series? They’re just tickets to the next stage that involved you winning no more than 4 games to get there since your last big celebration.
This year, with the additional Wild Card, it’s gotten one stage nuttier. You see in previous years the Wild Card team was treated equally with the Division winners – that is, they progressed to the Division series in what amounts to a semi-final played out in a best-of-5-games series. So while I mocked the Braves’ ‘Wild Card Champions’ banner, you could at least see where they were coming from.
Now though, being a [ahem] “Wild Card Champion”, gets you just ONE more game in your season. That’s ONE. 1. Less than two. Only one more than zero. That game comes against the other “Wild Card Champion”, and the winner of that ONE game, goes through to the actual playoffs – the Division Series against the team from your league with the best record.
So really it’s nothing to celebrate – it’s like the regular season just got a game longer, with the last game becoming more important than all the others. And yet the Braves and the Cardinals in the NL celebrated like they’d just won it all even though they knew all they’d won was an extra game. The Orioles and Rangers in the AL didn’t celebrate – simply because right up until the last pitch of the last game, they were hoping to win their division, so the ‘Wild Card’ wasn’t an achievement, it was a stay of execution.
When I become Commissioner of Baseball (which I expect to happen any day now), I will ban all celebrations for winners of the Wild Card. If they MUST make commemorative t-shirts, then let them read “NOT DEAD YET”, and hot chocolate will become the mandatory post-game drink.
Try spraying that.