The series is not what you think. The series is not the World Series, but the now-longer, more winding road of the initial playoff series.

We seem to have decided on this year’s Playoff Theme, and it is: Dude, Do We Even Have to Have Playoffs? Not unsurprisingly, this argument is most favored by teams who have steamed along well all year, then spontaneously combust at the end of September.

If you remember a time when the Reds weren’t a disaster wagon hitched to a monster truck that just burst into nuclear-powered flames, this should sound familiar to you. The general consensus, at least amongst those of us who only encounter the playoffs every geologic age or so, is that advancing successful teams directly to a championship is the dumbest, most unAmerican, Boomerist thing anyone has ever heard.

Well, maybe there’s another side to it. Let us forget, for the moment, that Great American Ball Park is now the southern hub for the Factory of Sadness and that Major League Baseball no longer insults you for taking in air on a regular basis. Suppose that the Reds posted a winning record for most of the season, and, due to quirks of the schedule, rainouts, corn, and the eternal spirit of Al Leiter, they are tied for a playoff berth. The night before the game, our starting pitcher, Joey Votto, and Redzilla are all involved in an unfortunate but non-fatal accident involving texting while synchronized swimming.

Now do you wish you had that bye? Is our team still the best team in the division?

It might be, but it’s also not the best team at that particular moment. But here’s the terrific thing about baseball: You get lots and lots of moments. In the wake of that devastating one-game playoff with the Mets, we had to admit that while we abhorred the outcome, it was a fair one. We hadn’t happened to bring along a pitcher in the mood to throw a complete game shutout. They did.

There are many games across a long season, and plenty of chances–but when the schedule drains out, each matchup still has a bearing on the final result. The supply of chances is great, yet still exhaustible, and each pitch of every inning of every game carried weight. There were no forevers, but also no throwaways.

Football is an aggressively finite game, and whoever is best on Super Bowl Sunday is the best for the year. That is football’s way, and bless it for that. But we take our time in baseball, and even when the game seems to challenge infinity, as the Astros and Mariners recently attempted, that’s when we draw together the most and when each moment holds the greatest, most eternal significance.

21 Responses

  1. LDS

    As one of the numerous resident curmudgeons on RLN, I preferred the days of win the division and play for the league championship. Everyone else goes home and prepares for next season. Most years, every game counted. Alas, the owners wanted more money, not a better game. Nonetheless, at least the Dodgers were ousted so the 500 teams in the playoffs gave us something.

    • David

      The ghost of Walter Alston, who haunts Darrtown, Ohio, is sad.

      But I do find the Dodger hype annoying. And they spend so much money!!!

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        That’s why just “spend more!” isn’t the ONLY thing the Reds need to do to fix it all.

      • TR

        I prefer the colorfull history of ‘duh Bums of Brooklyn.’ I got to NYC a year too late to see Ebbets Field.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      No matter the changes that come to the playoffs, eliminating the Dodgers should be the goal of them,

  2. Mark Moore

    You have to love (and cry more than a little) your phrase “southern hub for the Factory of Sadness”. Because it’s so very true.

    Alas, in this winding road, no division winners will represent the National League. The Evil Empire has some fleeting shot at beating Houston, but I’m not sure how much. And whether they like it or not, those D-Yankee fans need to realize they are seeing the last of Aaron Judge in pinstripes.

    Still following casually … but none of it is must-see-TV for me. There was frost on the ground outside my Raleigh area home this morning. It’s getting way too late to play baseball.

    • Jim Walker

      Reports of something called snow up this way but I have seen nothing of it, even in the air let alone on the ground. And snow isn’t really snow in these parts until at least it is on the ground unmelted!

    • Mike Adams

      Beth, Mark Moore and others:
      If the Reds are the “southern hub….sadness”, who would be the northern hub? Eastern? Western?

      • Mike Adams

        Oops! Meant to reply to M. Moore but Jim Walker you are included in my greeting under “and others”.

      • David

        The northern hub could be Cleveland, could be Detroit.

        Up north there, pardnah……

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      “The Evil Empire has some fleeting shot at beating Houston…” reminds me that I have zero idea of who to root for in this one.

      • Mark Moore

        “Root for” is a strong phrase. I’m not fond of any of the four that have advanced. I find myself rather ambivalent at this point.

    • TR

      But, a lot of collegiate sports activity in the triangle of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill. Especially basketball.

      • Mark Moore

        I bleed Syracuse Orange by birth. I can appreciate a clear, Carolina Blue sky … but not that basketball team. In about 2 months, I’ll have a Wolfpack graduate, though 😀

    • Mitch

      I like to call this year’s ALCS the series between “The Evil Empire and the Eviler Empire”. Which one is which? That’s up for you to decide!

  3. JayTheRed

    Baseball truly is a game of moments. Each moment builds on the next like you said. Nice perspective. One single moment in baseball can turn a game completely around. Appreciate the article.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks Jay! Reminds me of Game 2 of the NLCS in 1990.

  4. magi210

    Former Red Brandon Drury having a nice game for the Padres today.

    • David

      Well, that’s good. He’s a nice guy.

      Just imagine a team with Brandon Drury, Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez all playing together…and Luis Castillo pitching.

      Coulda been, I tellz ya!

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        NO DUMP IMMEDIATELLLLYYYYYY

  5. Oldtimer

    1973. NYM 83-79 NL East champions. CIN 99-73 NL West Champions.

    NYM 3-2 NL Pennant Winners. Reds could have sought revenge against OAK for the 1972 WS loss.