Monday, August 24, 2009
Quick Thoughts on the Playoffs
Vanguard of the blogosphere Eyebeleaf of Sports and the City posted a typically passionate piece this week, hoping for a salary cap/floor in baseball to help level the playing field. While it remains true that spending money is the best way to reach the post season, it isn't the only way. I sincerely fail to see how a salary cap benefits anyone, as though it is the key to competitive balance and renewed hope for the downtrodden.
Without getting too deeply into the vagaries of why using the NFL as a model is reckless, why dictating organizations spending habits simply doesn't help, why stupid organizations will always be stupid, I wanted to address another point attached to this debate: opening the playoffs to more teams. This idea, as it relates to baseball, makes me sad.
The playoffs, as currently constituted in the NBA & NHL, are a joke. As I said in the comments of the SATC post, they're a sop to fans too distracted to notice they're now being charged double for games that are no more meaningful that stretch drive games in September for a competitive team in baseball.
When the Rockies were charging down the stretch in 2007, how is that LESS significant than the Raptors being summarily dismissed by the Magic each and every year? When the Jays collapsed against the Tigers in 1987, are we to believe that weekend series meant less than the Cavaliers dismantling the Pistons this past spring?
Occasionally the rare instance of a Warriors/Mavericks or an Oilers run to the Cup final capture all our attention, but again I point to unlikely runs by the Marlins or Twins, reeling in the fast starting Tigers in 2006. Those ARE the playoffs, 30 games at a time, and you just don't have to pay double to see them. The baseball season is 162 games long, that should be plenty of time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The salary-capped and playoff-free-for-all NBA can be one of the most frustrating leagues to watch due to its nebulous salary machinations combined with teams outright desire to tank or rig their playoff positioning. Teams actively putting out an inferior product night after night to avoid playing a tough 4 seed, hoping instead to catch a weak division winner propped up by the various playoff bracket restructurings.
I'm not pretending to dislike the notion of "making the playoffs" as a good thing, but you can't convince me the Leafs "making the playoffs" this season automatically makes it a successful year. Wow, they finished 8th and got dusted in the first round? Awesome. My Habs looked like legit Stanley Cup threats last year only to falter to a first round exit. Guess what? I don't care that they made the playoffs, they were supposed to be good. They weren't, we move on.
The recurring Blue Jays blogosphere meme "PLAYOFFS!" was fun for one good reason: making the playoffs in baseball means something and represents a legitimate success. Hopefully baseball doesn't make the same pathetic stab at placating entitled fans eager to buy a mouthful of shit packaged as Grade A steak.