Baseball has brackets. Honest. Byes, too. Yes. I saw this on ESPN with optics and icons, cluttered with all the paraphernalia of significance. A dozen teams are paired off as if one of them is Gonzaga and another is Tampa Bay.
Well, one of them is Tampa Bay come to notice and another is San Diego, for reasons not made clear.
Here’s my point. Baseball is now just another end-loaded hustle, concocted not conducted, a lottery ticket, a wrist full of watches. May the best mark win.
Baseball has gone to so much trouble to phony up October, once and nevermore the sacred space for the World Series, I feel obligated to play along.
Is it too much to ask that we forget that at least half of the playoff baseball teams are the raisins and not the bran, the anchovies and not the pizza, the croutons and not the salad? I think not.
The ideal wild card, as we all know, is in the hole with a high pair showing, but baseball has other uses for wild cards, for six of them in fact, and none of them Chicago teams.
Just which of the 12 baseball playoff teams is wild and which is not is moot, and which won 111 games (Dodgers) and which stumbled into October (Phillies) matters not at all.
There is a special distinction in being in the final mix, and I am not going to compare the presence of Seattle and Toronto to shooting par from the red tees, finishing first in the overweight division of a marathon, or being good at mixed pickleball.
How easy to insist that what’s going on is nothing more than trying to see who gets to be the cummerbund with the tuxedo, the epaulet on the uniform, the hood ornament on the limo.
No, what I shall do instead is begin taking nominations for the new national pastime. Baseball has forfeited its claim.
Baseball is just another rat in the race, like hockey and soccer and track and/or field.
Baseball has always managed to survive the people who use it, but I don’t know now. There are those who will insist that baseball has been heading into the dumper since it started making the outfielders carry in their gloves between innings. Count me among them.
Domed stadiums, sliding gloves, the designated hitter, the two-column box score, bullpens by committee, defensive shifts, fantasy leagues, sabermetrics, the ghost runner. All have done their share to undo the game, but the real villain may be the TV remote control.
Too many choices, too easy to zap away from a bases-empty inning and forget you had left. Football is watchable this way, two games at once. Spaced properly it is possible to see Miami’s quarterback hand the ball to Pittsburgh’s running back, or a New York Giants safety intercepting Chicago’s quarterback.
No, wait. That’s possible without zapping.
Baseball is out of sync with the times and the technology, and hence is certainly doomed. These four-tiered playoffs become just as tedious as the season, where you can drop in and drop out and catch up in the morning with Mike Greenberg.
The significance of any game is determined by the size of the audience that watches it. Television becomes the ultimate authenticator, so that nothing that has happened until now has mattered.
And where do you suppose baseball got this gem of a notion? From basketball. Without doubt, the NBA playoffs and NCAA tournament are exciting, but at the price of the regular season.
Basketball — very zappable until the last two minutes — is constructed so that nothing happens until the end, in games and in the season.
There are no buzzer-beaters in baseball. Walk off homers, sure, but the winning run can be scored in the fourth inning, and more often than not it is. The Dodgers reached the playoffs when, in April?
Baseball’s best moments cannot be orchestrated. They must just happen. The trick is to be paying attention when they do. Pastimes require time.
Excuse me, I want to see what’s new on Netflix. Where’s the remote?