There will be no tiebreaker games this year, but for those who were interested to watch how the final day of the regular season would play out, television viewers were vastly disappointed. There were only two games that mattered on Sunday, but TBS, which has exclusive national rights on the final day, didn't show either of them.
The explanation isn't crystal clear, but it seems the network just guessed wrong. As recently as Friday morning, several teams were still in the wild card hunt in both leagues, including the Cleveland Indians. The interleague contest between Cleveland and Washington was arguably the second-best matchup 48 hours ahead of broadcast time, but the game ended up meaningless. Cubs at Cardinals was the best, even though Chicago was bounced from post-season play earlier in the week. That game turned out to be a blowout, but had St. Louis lost and Milwaukee won at Colorado, there would have been a one-game playoff for the National League Central Division crown (with the loser ending up as a wild card, along with Washington).
Since 2015, all games on the final day of the regular season have started at the same time. The reason for this was because when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost on the final day in 2014, it gave St. Louis the NL Central title. The Cardinals, who finished the season out west at Arizona, hadn't begun their game yet when the Pirates lost, and were able to pull their ace starter Adam Wainwright, and save him for game one of the playoffs.
The decision to eliminate that possibility in future years has been heralded as a good one, but there have been side effects. Baseball fans remember the crazy finish in 2011, when both the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves had epic collapses, and were eliminated on the final day of the season, with about six different games on that final Sunday critical in the standings. Viewers got to watch doubleheaders, and networks bouncing back and forth from game to game. TBS apparently doesn't have the ability to do that, and also seemed to had to pick their final telecast several days in advance.
We should say that the final day turned out to be anti-climatic. Cubs (now ex) manager Joe Maddon decided to put Derek Holland and his over-five ERA on the mound to start the game. The lefty gave up seven runs in two-plus innings and the game was over before you could say Jack Robinson. It became moot immediately, but the Milwaukee Brewers were leading much of the game in Colorado. They lost in 13 innings, but perhaps (likely not) that would have turned out differently if the Cardinals game was more competitive (pitching, lineup changes, etc.)
If MLB is going to start all the final Sunday games at the same time, fine, but put each game that matters on national TV. The playoffs are scattered between Fox, FS1, TBS, MLB Network, and ESPN. How about letting that happen on the final day as well? If TBS had the first pick, and chose Cleveland-Washington, they would suffer, because viewers would be going elsewhere to see the games that really counted, even if in this case, it might only have been for a few innings.
Thanks Boch: With TBS (which is doing all of the National League playoff games by the way) essentially eliminating themselves from viewing contention on Sunday, the easy watching decision became Dodgers-Giants (I did have my laptop open to the MLB scoreboard, and had the audio of the Cubs-Cardinals game on). The Dodgers won 9-0, but it was Bruce Bochy's final game as skipper of the Giants. Bochy was honored with a lavish ceremony after the game (which I watched when I wasn't turning to see if the Rams could come back against Tampa Bay) (They didn't). The game did have some special moments, too, with Clayton Kershaw pitching an inning in relief, and facing Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter. The Giants pitcher had taken Kershaw deep twice in his career, but, after about nine fastballs, Bumgarner, who is now a free agent and will likely leave San Francisco, lined out. Bochy won three World Series as manager of the Giants, and even Dodgers and Dodger fans appreciate Bochy's career.
Century mark: Four teams won 100 games this year in MLB, and four teams lost that many. In the American League, there were three of each—Houston (107 wins), NY Yankees (103), and Minnesota (101) won over a hundred. Detroit (114), Baltimore (108), and Kansas City (103) lost a hundred. In the NL, the Dodgers (106) were the only team to top the century mark in victories. The Marlins (105) lost in triple digits. We predicted a battle between Baltimore and Miami for the worst team in baseball, but Detroit ended up winning (er, losing) that title going away.
(Lack of) Schedule integrity: Heaven forbid we make some baseball players work a little bit longer. Two teams that did not qualify for the playoffs only played 161 games this year, but they could have easily gotten them all in. The Detroit Tigers were at the Chicago White Sox for a season-ending four-game series, including a doubleheader on Friday to make up a previous rainout. However, the doubleheader was rained out, meaning to get all four games in, they would have to play twin-bills on Saturday and Sunday. They played two on Saturday, but only went with the single game Sunday. I know no one cares about this but me, but had the doubleheader been played, every team would have played the full 162.
Ten critical minutes?: The starting times have been released (kind of) for the first Division Series games through Saturday, but it depends on who the Dodgers play as to what time the games at Dodger Stadium will begin. If the Dodgers play Washington, Game One gets underway just after 5:30pm Thursday. If Milwaukee wins, first pitch is an hour later. This seems to be done to start the game as late as possible while not alienating fans back east (Washington is in the Eastern time zone, and Milwaukee is in the Central). However, if the Dodgers play the Nationals, the second game on Friday will be at 6:37pm, and if it's the Dodgers against the Brewers, the start time is 6:47pm. How could ten lousy minutes possibly be such a big difference?
And the winner is...: MLB's website has a $250,000 Bracket Challenge, where you are asked to pick the winner of each series, the World Series winner, the number of games the World Series will last, and the World Series MVP as the tiebreaker. Perfection gets you 250K. For the record, my picks are Washington and Oakland as wild card winners, the Dodgers beat the Nationals and Atlanta takes down St. Louis in the NL Division Series, and Los Angeles defeats Atlanta in the NLCS (surprise, right?). In the American League, Houston defeats the A's, and the Yankees beat the Twins, setting up a Yankees-Astros ALCS. That pick is tough but I'm going with the Astros. The Dodger beat Houston in six games with Corey Seager as MVP. We'll visit my regular season predictions later.
Not so super celebrity look-alikes: FS1/Seattle Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, who did Saturday's Cleveland-Washington game, and Saturday Night Live Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost. Maybe it's just the hair.
I finally watched the Emmys. The show was terrible, but the 'highlight' for me was something I wasn't thinking about. Included in the 'In Memoriam' segment was my late cousin Cameron Boyce, who passed away in July at the age of 20. If it's possible to be sad and smile and the same time, that was the emotion, watching the show a week after it aired.