Fixing the Wild Card Round of the Playoffs and Other Bullets

theo epstein about thatIn case you missed it, there’s a brand new BN Podcast episode available for your consumption.

  • The Cardinals whooped the Pirates 9-1 in their NLDS opening game yesterday. The Cardinals hung a seven-spot on A.J. Burnett in the third inning, and that was that. As for the Dodgers and Braves, it was a little closer, but similarly non-competitive. Clayton Kershaw did as he does, and the Dodgers won 6-1.
  • Theo Epstein has apparently suggested an ideal fix to the one-game Wild Card playoff that many of us hate. The fix turns the game into a three-game series, which starts with a doubleheader on the first day. In that way, you get a three-game series (far preferable to a one-game coin flip), and you add just one day to the postseason. The only downside I see is the difficulty in asking a 25-man rostered team to play three games in two days (and then head off to another series) after a long season. That’s a tough order, but maybe that’s not unfair, given what the playoffs are all about.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin was a little surprised that injured utility man Mat Gamel was picked up off of waivers by the Cubs. Melvin had hoped to get Gamel through waivers so that the Brewers would not be on the hook for another $500K next year if Gamel couldn’t play. Claiming a waived player costs only $20,000, so it’s worth the gamble for teams like the Cubs (especially if they, too, will try to get Gamel through waivers, because there would be nothing to lose).
  • Speaking of Gamel and my “utility man” designation, Keith Law would take issue with that, presumably post two years of ACL injuries. According to Law, who liked the waiver pick-up, Gamel is a 1B/DH-only type at this point in his career. If he truly can no longer play third base or a corner outfield spot in a pinch, Gamel will be virtually impossible for the Cubs to carry as a bench guy at the big league level. Instead, they’d have to hope to get him to AAA Iowa, where he could depth in the event of a serious injury to Anthony Rizzo.
  • And speaking of Law, he chatted yesterday, and among his Cubs-related thoughts: (1) Javier Baez and Albert Almora for Giancarlo Stanton would be too much, and Law says he could see each of those two ending up as valuable as Stanton (wow); (2) converting Gioskar Amaya to catcher is a good idea given the dearth of catching talent (not only in the Cubs’ system, but all over); (3) Law doesn’t believe Dale Sveum was successful in his various charges as manager of the Cubs; and (4) Welington Castillo is not a reasonable centerpiece in a David Price trade (someone was really thinking that?).
  • Jesse Rogers continues his look at the various Cubs positions, reviewing the catching situation in 2013 and beyond.
  • Looks like Arismendy Alcantara will be playing in the Dominican Winter League this year.
  • You can vote on a host of minor league awards, including several ones involving Cubs players/prospects here.
  • In case you need to feel badly about the 2003 Cubs season once again, CSN has produced a documentary on that ill-fated season.
  • The Dodgers elected to leave Carlos Marmol off of their 25-man playoff roster, despite his 2.53 ERA since coming over in a trade from the Cubs. I suppose they would point to the low leverage innings in which that ERA came, as well as the career-high 8.00 BB/9 rate that Marmol sported after the trade.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

99 responses to “Fixing the Wild Card Round of the Playoffs and Other Bullets”

  1. Eric

    I’m wondering that if, besides providing depth, the FO isn’t thinking that a little pressure might be good for Rizzo in picking up Gamel.

    1. On The Farm

      At this point I will say doubtful. Looking at Rizzo’s contract, I don’t think he feels the need to constantly keep checking over his shoulder for the next few years. Two years from now if Vogelbach keeps being Vogelbomb, that’s when the pressure is on, but with all that gaurenteed money, the Cubs are committed to Rizzo for now.

  2. Edwin

    Bring in Ted Lilly as LOOGY Player/Manager for next season.

  3. Edwin

    I don’t mind the one game play in. What I’d like to see is the playoffs go to 5 game series at every stage.

    I know it makes the results of the playoffs more random, but I think it also keeps the playoffs moving at a faster pace, and gets to the exciting games faster than a 7 game series.

    1. Eternal pessemist

      No reason to give them a 3 game playoff…if they didn’t win the division they have nothing to complain about!

      1. Eternal pessemist

        And if they get a 3 game playoff, doesn’t the next team deserve a 1 game playoff…and the next team a coin flip…and the next team rock-paper-scissors…and…

      2. DocPeterWimsey

        How about the (frequently true) situation where WC teams have better records than division winners?

        1. Eternal pessemist

          Ok, then let’s just do away with divisions.

          1. YourResidentJag

            Sounds good to me!

    2. C. Steadman

      agreed, I’d like a 5 game at every stage playoffs with the one game WC play in…it gives the regular season a little more weight because being a division winner means something

    3. Bwa

      I completely disagree. I think they should all be 7 games because a team only needs three pitchers in a 5 game series and could probably go the whole playoffs with only 3 pitchers. In today’s game, that is not representative of a complete team. As far as making the regular season count more, I don’t understand that point because baseball is already the hardest sport to make the playoffs and with the current wildcard one game play in, winning the division means a lot.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Ah, that gets to my biggest gripe with post-season: it makes the 5th starter irrelevant. A team with a 5th starter who is just an average MLB pitcher has a really good chance of winning enough games to make post-season even if none of the 4 guys better than him are studs. However, these teams are at a disadvantage relative to teams with 1 or 2 “studs” and below average pitchers after that once post-season starts because the schedule eliminates one of the latter teams weaknesses.

        So, ditch the travel days. In the regular season, teams finish a series at one park on Sunday and often start a new series at another park on Monday. The “Travel Day” is an anachronism from a time where teams had to travel by train, and where you might need two days to get a team from Boston to St. Louis if you had a Braves-Browns WS. (Or a Cards-Sox WS, but that would be silly, right?)

        If you play 7 games in 7 days, then all 5 starters are important: and teams win or lose based on much more similar criteria to why they won/lost during the regular season.

        (That would also give them plenty of time for the 3 game WC playoff, preferably done as Theo suggested.)

        1. Brandon

          The days off between games and the play-off schedule is for money purposes only. NBA and NHL are perfect examples of how to extend playoffs to make as much $ as you can. That being said I agree with you, they can play a night game,travel, and then play a day(or night)game the next day during the season, why not during the playoffs.

        2. MichaelD

          I remember back in ’03 that this was one of the reasons the Cubs were expected (and probably did better) than their record in the post-season. The Cubs had a very good rotation that year, but they had the worst 5th starter in the league. Mostly that was a result of Baker’s insistence on having a lefty in the rotation (Estes).

    4. Funn Dave

      I would only want them to go from seven to five games if they were changing the wildcard playoff to three games & doing this to compromise.

  4. CubFan Paul

    I’ll wait to see Gamel on the diamond before I declare 1B/DH only. We’re still 6months away from the 2014 season…that’s A LOT of rehab time (with today’s medical advances).

  5. MichiganGoat

    Dodgers keeping Marmol off the roster so they can finish the conversion to starter next year. Kershaw-Genkie-Marmol BOOM

    1. Edwin

      It gives Marmol more time to perfect his knuckle ball.

      1. Good Captain

        W/ 8 BB per 9, I think he already be throwing one albeit very badly.

  6. OregonCubsFan

    3 games in two days would put a wild card team at a huge disadvantage going into the division series – even if they were to sweep the first day double header. I think the extra wild card team should either be scrapped or the playoffs should be expanded to eight teams in either league with a best 2 of 3 opening round. With the short series, it can be played entirely in the division champion and top wild card’s parks to give an advantage based on the season record.

    1. On The Farm

      Another thing I like about the one game play-in is that teams will either use their Ace, or if he just pitched their #2 guy in the play in. If they had to play two-three games, there is a good chance starting the division series the Wild Card team could be without its top two, possibly three pitchers for the first game.

      1. CubbieBubba

        I like that too. I know people complain about how 1 game isn’t a true reflection of the teams abilities, but tough. Its fun to watch a sudden death match, an exciting way to kick the playoffs off, and if they want to play more games they either need to do better during the regular season or win that one game.

    2. C. Steadman

      8 teams from each league is too much…it’d mean over half of the MLB will qualify for the playoffs..and teams that finished 76-86 would make the playoffs(Giants and Padres tied for the 8th spot in the NL)

      1. On The Farm

        I agree, two is probably the maximum Wild Cards that are needed for baseball playoffs. People already complain the season is too long, adding an additional playoff series (and possibly going further into November) would be a huge turn off for the sport.

  7. Kyle

    Only way I’d be OK with the 3-game/DH idea is if it started the day after the season and didn’t push the start of the playoffs at all. It’s already too long between the end of the season and the start of the divisional round.

    There is no perfect playoff system. There’s no need to keep tweaking it to adjust to whatever problem is in focus at the moment. That’s a great way to get a Frankenstein monster.

    1. CubFan Paul

      Play more double headers during the season and the problem is kind of solved.

  8. Bubbleshargrave

    Maybe theo should be more concerned with actually making the playoffs than changing what’s a good arrangement. The whole point is to win your division.

    1. On The Farm

      I would agree with this statement only if Theo was the only one talking about how they could make the playoffs better. Since it seems to be a pretty big topic on talk radio – which is really saying something because ESPN, Dan Patrick, etc don’t talk about baseball very much, so the fact that this is getting press means it’s an interesting topic – I am okay with hearing what one of baseball most respected front office minds has to say on the matter.

    2. OregonCubsFan

      So Theo can’t comment or muse about anything playoff related until the Cub’s make the playoffs? Gee, that seems reasonable…

      1. Kyle

        I’d rather Theo not comment on anything publicly other than to apologize to all Cubs fans until the Cubs make the playoffs. And the apology had better be as over-the-top erudite as everything else he’s said.

        1. OregonCubsFan

          I don’t think it is Theo who should do the apologizing – it’s all those who came before him. If I have a plumbing problem in my house and a plumber has to come in and redo my entire sewer or septic system and charge me a boat load of money that may take me quite some time to pay off, should he apologize for the problem? He did not create the problem, he came to fix it. Theo is our plumber. It’s not fun having to pay someone to clean out the toilets – or cheap. But it has to be done.

          1. Kyle

            The Cubs are not your house.

            Homespun analogies are the junk food of intellectual discourse. They seem so alluring but have absolutely no value.

            1. OregonCubsFan

              So – all the problems with the Cubs organization are Theo’s fault? He did not inherit any of them?

              By the way – just making unsupported opinion statements are what have no value. Analogies are a very reasonable way of explaining logic and thought processes. But if you simply want to stoop to attack and not discuss rationally, I’ll be happy to cease this discussion.

              1. Kyle

                Fault does not have to be indivisible. It can be simultaneously true that he’s done a poor job with the MLB team *and* that he inherited problems.

                1. OregonCubsFan

                  Can’t disagree that the mlb team has been terrible the last couple years and got even worse midseason with the sell offs. But, it seems there are times when things end up getting worse before getting better.
                  If Theo inherited a bunch of problems, which we have now both agreed on, and he wants to go about things differently than the past (build the whole system so we can sustain a winning team rather than throwing money out to buy a team) it logically follows that it could be a painful transition – as it has.
                  But unlike the past, there seems to be a plan in place. Theo is not willing to mortgage the farm (as did Dallas Green – who made some great aquistions btw) nor encumber the team with long term contracts in order to win today (as did Jim Hendry).
                  You will indeed be a Cubs fan long after Theo is gone. But if his plan works (yes, I said if – it’s certainly not fail proof) then someday, when we see the Cubs in the playoffs seven out of eleven years, we will thank Theo and company for building such a solid organization.

                  1. Kyle

                    ” But, it seems there are times when things end up getting worse before getting better.”

                    Sometimes I imagine that’s true. And sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes I wake up cashing in my bad luck. Sometimes I call it a draw.

                    “If Theo inherited a bunch of problems, which we have now both agreed on,”

                    I suspect we disagree on the degree. I think those problems have been often overstated.

                    “and he wants to go about things differently than the past (build the whole system so we can sustain a winning team rather than throwing money out to buy a team)”

                    He may want that, but it’s not something that’s never been tried in Chicago before, nor is it automatically the best way to do things just because if it were difference.

                    ” it logically follows that it could be a painful transition – as it has.
                    But unlike the past, there seems to be a plan in place. ”

                    There’s always been a plan in place. There’s never not been a plan and place. And he cribbed this particular plan from Andy MacPhail.

                    I’m again reminded of that Joker quote about plans.

                    “Theo is not willing to mortgage the farm (as did Dallas Green – who made some great aquistions btw) nor encumber the team with long term contracts in order to win today (as did Jim Hendry).
                    You will indeed be a Cubs fan long after Theo is gone. But if his plan works (yes, I said if – it’s certainly not fail proof) then someday, when we see the Cubs in the playoffs seven out of eleven years, we will thank Theo and company for building such a solid organization. ”

                    I’m not going to thank him for 7 in 11 if it takes him five years before that even kicks in.

                    1. ACA

                      Really? The Cubs haven’t made the playoffs 7 times in your lifetime. If it takes them 5 years to begin a stretch of 7 in 11, you will most absolutely be thankful.

                  2. On The Farm

                    You also have to factor in how baseball has changed since the new CBA. Teams used to be able to throw money at Free Agents to put a “competitive team” on the field and then throw money at amateurs who slipped for “signability”. The fact is the best and most effective way to acquire talent is through the draft, and the best talent is at the top of the draft. Also, they have been pretty transparent about what they are doing.

                    1. Kyle

                      The new CBA’s effects are always vastly overstated.

                      People have severely overestimated the effectiveness of overslotting in the final years of the old CBA. When it first became popular, only a few teams were doing it and the rewards were reasonable. Like all market inefficiencies, as more teams jumped in, the less useful it became.

                      By the end of the old CBA (as usual, the point when the Cubs got to the strategy), it was pretty nearly meaningless. You were paying a million bucks for pretty marginal talents.

        2. mjhurdle

          Why should Theo apologize? They offer a product, you choose to buy it or not.
          If you aren’t satisfied, and you keep coming back, maybe you should go to a mirror and get your apology that way.

          1. Kyle

            I was here before he got here, and I’ll be here long after he leaves.

            1. mjhurdle

              Still doesn’t change the fact that you are continually choosing to purchase a product you are not satisfied with.
              I’m not even defending Theo. The verdict is out on him still imo, he might end up as the greatest ever, or The Plan may fall absolutely flat.

              Either way, it is my decision to continue my interest in the Cubs, not Theo’s. So he owes me nothing, regardless of what kind of job he does.

              1. Kyle

                It doesn’t change the fact, but the fact isn’t particularly relevant.

                1. mjhurdle

                  The fact that it is your fault and not someone else’s isn’t relevant to thinking someone should apologize to you?

                  1. Kyle

                    That’s not a fact. That’s your theory extrapolated from an incomplete set of facts and a few false implicit assumptions.

                    1. mjhurdle

                      you are correct. I based it on the assumption that you had a choice to follow the Cubs or not.
                      It seems in your case you do not, and Theo is forcing you to follow this team.
                      At this point i agree then. Theo owes you an apology. And i also agree that he should word it as well as he does his press releases.

                    2. Kyle

                      Nope. Still wrong.

                      You are looking at things in far too binary a manner, trying to force assumptions in that help lead you to the conclusions that you want to make.

                      It’s quite possible, and in this correct, to say that fans get rational value out of continuing to root for teams they have rooted for in the past. Otherwise, we’d see sports fans changing allegiances every year, which we don’t.

                      So Theo’s Cubs are getting my attention based on not their choices, and not even my current choices, but rather decisions that were made long ago.

  9. Rich

    A double header for playoffs is a terrible idea..One of the worst in the history of planet earth.
    how about we make the season 152 games and make the first wild card best of 3 and then we wont be playing baseball in the cold.

    1. Kyle

      Sure. Just write all 30 teams a check to cover the lost 5 home games and 10 games worth of TV revenue. They’ll be glad to accommodate your idea then.

      1. ssckelley

        But which games draw more revenue, 10 more playoff games or teams like the Twins and Cubs battling out the 4th pick in next years draft? I argue that baseball would make more money if they scaled the regular season back a few games in order to accommodate the expanded playoffs. Alot more people tune into playoff baseball than watching a last place team play game #162 of the regular season.

        The more baseball keeps expanding the playoffs without cutting back the regular season dilutes the product. Baseball is a summer sport and should not be played in 40 degree weather or in snow flurries.

        1. Kyle

          You can argue that, but math would not be on your side. The regular season games win just by sheer volume.

          1. ssckelley

            No, not if you are cutting the regular season down by 10 games in order to add 2 more playoff games. But why cut out 10? Drop it down 2 games, make it a 160 game regular season.

            1. Kyle

              Dropping the regular season by 2 games costs you 30 games in order to gain four playoff games.

              I don’t think the numbers are going to add up in your favor regardless.

  10. Kyle

    Still can’t believe 2003 was the last time the Cubs won a playoff game. Even a single playoff game. Thanks to the Pirates this year, every team in the division has now won a playoff game since then.

    Then again, we’re 15 days short of the five-year anniversary of the last time an Epstein team won a playoff game.

  11. Jono

    I like the wild card game. At least those two teams have a chance in getting in, since they didn’t win their division to beging with. And it’s a great way to start off the post season, with a game 7 like atmosphere.

  12. Stinky Pete

    “Clayton Kershaw did as he does, and the Dodgers won 6-1.”

    And the Braves were immediately offended and would not allow the Dodgers to leave the stadium until the Braves were allowed to win.

  13. Drew

    More Playoff Games = More Revenue. Tickets, TV, Advertising, Concessions, ETC. . . I like Theo’s thinking.

  14. aCubsFan

    I first heard of the day/night doubleheader and 3-game playoff series for the wildcard on the Cubs broadcast just before the end of the season. Len and JD were talking about it. I got the impression that JD came up with the idea. Len felt it was an ideal solution. Len feels the one game playoff doesn’t fit baseball since it’s a game of series. I tend to agree.

  15. Nick

    How about we just keep the one wild card? Nothing was wrong with it to begin with.

    1. Kyle

      Because this way is better. You get a better chance of having a meaningful regular season race down the stretch, you get guaranteed excitement to kick off the playoffs (similar to March Madness opening weekend), you get an inherent benefit to winning your division beyond just the extra home game.

      The fact that people still complain about such an elegant solution just proves that people will never, ever be happy with baseball formatting. It’s just something that’s fun to complain about.

      1. ssckelley

        True, it means more money for baseball and it keeps more teams in the playoff races longer than it would the old way.

        But I do miss the old format of having to win the division in order to advance. The expanded playoffs do take away the importance of the regular season. It used to be what made baseball unique to the other sports. But money talks and is what drives sports.

      2. Nick

        I guess if you say its way better, it must be true for everyone. But for a whole season you don’t play 1 one game series, it seems silly that your playoffs hopes rely on a one game series.

        1. OregonCubsFan


        2. Kyle

          You don’t play 7-game series in the regular season either.

          1. Nick

            True, but whats your point? Its the Post Season, It should’t come down to a short series to detemine 162 game long season.

            1. Kyle

              Why not? It always has.

              If you want to be completely fair, then you do a 30-team round robin, every team plays every other team six games, three home and three away. Best record wins the championship.

              Playoffs will always be unfair, and that’s OK, because it’s more interesting that way.

              1. Nick

                You seem like you would love basketball then. But we will agree to disagree

      3. Funn Dave

        Um, no. People complain because they think the current system doesn’t make sense, and there are other ways that do. To me, the most screwed up part about the current format is that the wildcard “series” is a less stringent test of a team’s talent than a regular season series. On what planet does it make sense to have regular season games be truer tests of talent than postseason games? To me, it’s one of the most nonsensical concepts in all of sports.

  16. ari gold

    Wow, Klaw thinks Almora and Baez could end up as valuable as Stanton. That’s some serious praise.

  17. Aaron

    I like Theo’s idea of the best of 3 format. I would like it even more if the Cubs were part of the playoffs in the next few years.

  18. Funn Dave

    Anyone have a link to or info on the documentary? Is it online, or on TV, or DVD, or…?

  19. waittilthisyear

    the one game playoff is exciting and i like this. i say this fully aware of the fact that if the cubs were to lose a one game playoff, i would lose my mind. after a prolonged bender, of course

  20. TSB

    If the one game play-off is so bad, just eliminate it and the extra play-off team. If you can’t make the grade after 162 games, well it’s just not your year…

    1. Funn Dave

      I’d be ecstatic if they went back to having only one wildcard in each league. But more postseason teams = more TV revenue, so unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to happen.

  21. Brent

    I think the notion of playing a 162 game schedule and then having a one game WC playoff game is ridiculous. ANY team could beat any other team in a one game situation. Baseball isn’t like basketball and football. Other than a 163rd game like we saw with TEX/TB, a one game playoff makes no sense.

    1. cubsin

      I don’t think you can have it both ways. If a one-game playoff to get into the postseason makes sense, then a one-game playoff between the final two wild card teams must also make sense. I’m still waiting for the season when five non-division winners in one or both leagues are tied for the wild card spots.

    2. Dustin S

      Depends what way you look at it I guess. On the surface I agree, but then you think about the teams that miss the playoffs by 1 game in the standings after a 162 season and that is basically the same thing. Plus the playoffs are so long already that they’d need to make up time someplace else like by shortening the regular season. About the only way it would work is if they shave off the last series of the season.

  22. Corey

    IF you’re gonna add days, just add two more.

  23. fromthemitten

    Marmol’s postseason ERA is almost 8 YIKES

  24. TOOT

    Outsiders are saying FO “flubbed” with Castro and Rizzo. One called Rizzo a FAT CAT and Castro a LAZY BUM. While I don’t agree with it, at this point, I have to admit that it has cropped up in the back of my mind.(Friends say same thing)

    1. MichiganGoat

      Care to cite a source?

      1. TOOT

        Not in this peticular instance. But was said on live radio.

        1. mjhurdle

          well, if you hear it on live radio, it must be true and/or valid.

          1. TOOT

            No. The point I was trying to make was these things were in in the back of fans minds, like so many other fans have alluded to. These guys(Castro,Rizzo) have not developed. Is that why Sveum was fired? Of course. Fact is they regressed last year and they seem to overpaid. and nobodycan contest that if they of the right mind.

    2. DarthHater

      Insiders are saying this comment is asinine.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Outsiders agree with this statement.

    3. MichiganGoat

      I’m assuming your “outsiders” are random people outside of your basement?

      1. kscubfan

        Basement??? Too much credit…outside his brain.

      2. TOOT

        Nah, media outside of Chicago. That’s all I mean.

    4. mjhurdle

      considering the definition of an “outsider”, why should we care what they think about baseball moves?

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