I hate the new 16-team format for the MLB playoffs.
There, I said it.
But hey, we have to play with the cards we’re dealt, right? I hope Rob Manfred doesn’t decide to implement this setup past this season, though he might be inclined to if the playoffs keep playing out at the level they have been so far. Because I do not think Manfred could have mapped out a better result after the end of the first round.
Division Rivalries Galore
Four matchups. Four division rivalries. Sign me up. The Division Series of the MLB playoffs will feature Dodgers-Padres/Braves-Marlins in the NLDS, and Astros-Athletics/Yankees-Rays in the ALDS. Teams that know each other usually produce the best brand of baseball. MLB has to love this.
Then there’s the pettiness. Not only are each of these pairings in the same division, they each share a bit of bad blood.
You remember the benches-clearer the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s got into earlier this season after Ramón Laureano got hit by a pitch, mocked the pitcher’s lack of feel for his breaking ball, then went apeshit after an Astros coach hit below the belt (said something about Laureano’s mother). There’s also the Mike Fiers thing, as he is a member of the A’s pitching staff and the main whistle-blower behind the Astros’ cheating revelations. This series could get pretty spicy in high-pressure situations.
Then we have the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees, who had a benches-clearing disagreement just over a month ago, after a 101 MPH Aroldis Chapman fastball whizzed past the head of Mike Brosseau. These teams have long been a bit prickly with one another, as the Yankees play the role of the dominant big brother, while the Rays are cast as the younger sibling who has now matured enough to challenge for bunkbed supremacy. The Rays won the AL East this season for the first time since 2010. The Yankees are better on paper, though. We’ll see how it plays out.
The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers have not been in any fracases as of late, though you can bet the Dodgers not forgotten Trent Grisham’s unbelievable pimp job off of Clayton Kershaw a few weeks ago, which Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was none-too-pleased about. Regardless, the Dodgers are the best team in MLB, while the Padres are the most exciting. They know each other well, and clearly many of the players hold no qualms about admiring home runs and playing with emotion. That makes for a great series.
Finally, we have the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins. The drama surrounding these two teams usually surrounds Ronald Acuña Jr. getting plunked, which happened again on September 7th. The Braves have owned the Marlins over the past few years, and again had a winning record against them this season (6-4). You can bet the Braves will not take kindly to Acuña getting hit again, and in the MLB playoffs no less. You can also bet the Marlins will attack him with hard, inside fastballs, as those are one of his few weaknesses. This is a recipe for a potential HBP. Buckle up if that happens.
David vs. Goliath
There’s another common denominator across these Division Series matchups: David vs. Goliath. In other words, the upstart team versus the established winner. Everybody loves that storyline.
The Astros have been a powerhouse since 2017, winning three AL West titles, two pennants, and a World Series. The A’s have been good over that span, but have just been one step behind their division rivals. They finished above Houston this year, however. Oh, how the turntables…
The Yankees have finished 2nd or 1st in the AL East over the past four seasons, and have won 100 or more games over the last two. The Rays, as I touched on earlier, just won their first division title in a decade. Can they take down the winningest franchise in all of sports?
The Dodgers have been a super-team for a while now, winning eight straight NL West titles and two NL pennants in that span. The Padres have consistently sucked ass during that time, never winning more than 77 games or finishing higher than 3rd in the division. Then 2020 came along, and the Padres find themselves in the MLB playoffs with Manny Machado and wunderkind Fernando Tatís Jr. leading the charge. The Dodgers are still awesome, but the Padres are electric, don’t have any expectations, and don’t give a shit about your feelings. That’s great for TV.
Sit Back and Enjoy
What incredible luck for Rob Manfred, man. Seriously. The first round of the MLB playoffs was generally entertaining; there were some spellbinding pitching performances. These Division Series, though? Wow. Get ready for some elite baseball and plenty of built-in drama. Maybe Rob Manfred was right to implement this format?
…nah, he just got lucky. It still sucks.
What’s that saying about the broken clock?