The newly designed postseason for 2022 featured a brand-new round of games, where instead of two teams in each league playing a single game for the final spot in the Division Series, four teams in each league took part in a Wild Card Series to earn the final two spots in the DS. The two divisions in each league with the best records got a bye in that first round, going straight to the DS.
So far, at least two of those teams with byes have been eliminated in the Division Series, and if the Yankees lose tonight it will be three out of four.
The problem, though, probably isn’t the new format. It’s probably, as Ian O’Connor writes in the New York Post, the same problem that has existed for the nearly 30 years the Division Series has been around: the series is just too short.
Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove agrees, even though he probably didn’t mean to.
“We got beat up on pretty good by these guys this year, and as a kid growing up I sat in those stands and I watched us get beat up by those guys for years. So to be able to knock them off in this round — it’s probably better that we had to face them in a five-game series than a seven. But you’re seeing this team starting to find its identity and really turn it on here down the stretch.”
The Dodgers lost three straight games to the Padres, so there’s no guarantee they would have fared better in a seven-game series. But as O’Connor says, if the goal is to identify the best team, a seven-game series is much more fair.
Musgrove understands that it’s much easier to apply pressure to the high seeds when elimination is lurking around the bend. …
This is about devising a system that gives the sport its best odds of identifying its best team. And a best-of-seven division series is that system.
That’s the thing, though. The postseason hasn’t been about identifying the best team in a long, long time. The World Series used to exist because the American and National Leagues were entirely separate entities, so it was “our best against your best to see who is the best.” Now, it’s just another postseason tournament.
Whoever wins the World Series this year — or any year — has a rightful claim as World Series champ. But we probably shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking they have a claim on the “best team in baseball” title, especially with three- and five-game series making upsets so common.