This past off season Major League baseball did something they had not done since 1994. It changed it’s playoff structure by adding a new element.
Prior to 1995 there were just four teams involved in the post season. There was an Eastern and Western Champion in Both leagues who would play each other for the League Championship. Those two winners would go into the World Series and face off against the opposing leagues Champion. This had been the case since 1969.
The new system was enacted in 1994 but due to the strike shortened season it debuted in 1995. The system worked with each league having three divisions. Each division winner would go to the playoffs and the team with the best record that did not win a division would also go to the post season. There have been five wild card teams that have won a World Series since MLB instituted the wild card.
In November the commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig announced that their would be a second wild card team for each league. The two wild card teams would play each other in a one game playoff. The winner will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs and face one of the divisional champions. All that was added was basically one more game to each leagues playoff. We will see the first wild card playoff game in less than two weeks from now.
The new system obviously adds something to the final month of the season. More teams will be in the hunt for the post season with the additional wild card. Those teams games will also be more exciting down the stretch when MLB can be boring at times. It will also create a new buzz in the playoffs. However there is a draw back.
The two wild card teams might actually be pretty far apart records wise. The second wild card team will be given an opportunity for the playoffs they may not deserve. As of right now you have two teams at the top of the National League wild card race. The Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. The braves lead the Cardinals by 6 games. If the playoffs were to start today the Cardinals would get a one game playoff opportunity with the Braves they should not have.
This new system seems nice right now but over time it will dilute the MLB post season. One wild card team per league is just enough. If you have too many non playoff worthy teams getting a shot in the playoffs it will spell disaster for MLB. This is just another scheme by Selig to make more money off of the last month of the season and add more money to the post season television deals. MLB should go back to the four team per league system before the post season become watered down. As the old adage goes if it is not broke don’t fix it.
The Pirates have been changing the perception of their team this year. After years of dwelling in the cellar of the National Leagues Central Division they seem to have turned things around. The team currently holds a record of 51 wins and 40 loses and are tied for first in the division with the Cincinnati Reds. Both teams hold a 5 game advantage over the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Superb pitching has a lot to do with their success but beyond the pitching is the incredible play of Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates Andrew McCutchen is having an MVP caliber season heading into August.
McCutchen is having a great year and has shown himself to be the team leader. He has the best batting average in both leagues batting .369 after 87 games played. He also has 22 home runs, 65 RBI’s, 65 runs and 14 stolen bases. Producing many walk off game winners and with the lowly Pirates not looking so low combined with his stats shows that he is in the running and possibly the lead to win the National League MVP trophy this year.
McCutchen was drafted by the Pirate in the 1st round of the 2005 draft with the 11th overall pick. He is in prime position to turn this franchise around for good and be recognized as one of the best baseball players around. He has added excitement to a team that had nothing to get excited about since Barry Bonds left after the 1992 season. He has had a few good seasons already but none as dominant as he has been this season. The fact that the Pirates are in 1st place in late July is amazing in its own right. The city of Pittsburgh could be transferred from a football city into to a baseball city in just a matter of a couple more years.
The Pirates have a lot to prove still. Can they make the playoffs for the first time since the early 90′s? Can they advance in the playoffs? Can they continue to be a good team year in and year out? All of those questions ride on the play of McCutchen. If McCutchen continues this run he will be the N.L. batting champion and should be the N.L. MVP. Recognition of that level would be incredible for the Pirates franchise. So if you have not been following this player or this team its time to open your eyes and believe what you are seeing, its true the Pirates are for real and they have one of baseballs best rising stars.
The rookie phenom that is 19 year old Bryce Harper will continue his whirl wind season by going to the All Star Game. Harper was not originally slated to attend the game which takes place this week in Kansas City. Harper will be taking the spot of injured Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton. Harper will be the 3rd youngest player to play in the MLB All Star Game. While Harper will be playing off of the bench the eyes of all of the fans will be on him for sure.
Harper has had a solid start to his MLB career since his debut in April. He is an excellent outfielder fielder with a rocket arm. His offensive play has been very good for his experience level. Harper has a batting average of .283, hit 8 home runs and had 25 RBI’s and scored 43 runs in just 62 games for the 1st place Washington Nationals.
Harper going deep at Fenway Park earlier this season.
Harper came in with a lot of hype and has been living up to it. He has displayed a maturity on and off the field, the later many thought he would be able to do. He has shown a lot of personality and has a charisma that a lot of players don’t have. He has created great moments already in his young career, like when he hit a home run in the historic Fenway Park during his first game on that field. He is in the right spot now to really display his skills in front of a national audience. Harper is a strong contender for Rookie of the Year in the National League.
Harper will probably get at least 1 at bat and play 2 innings or so. Many players have created unforgettable moments in All Star Games. I have a feeling Bryce Harper will have a chance to make one of those moments. When he gets he will more than likely take advantage of it. If Harper continues to play the way he has been and develop into the player that he has been billed to be than this is just the beginning.
Rough couple of games for the fish.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The biggest story up to this point of opening week has to be the story of the Miami Marlins and their lack of offense. They opened up their new stadium to much fanfare on Wednesday night, in a 4-1 loosing effort to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Marlins Ace Josh Johnson pitched well but not up to the level that is expected of this potential Cy Young pitcher. The reigning World Series MVP David Freese was the star of this game with 3 hits and 2 RBI’s in 5 visits to the plate. The Marlins then traveled to Cincinnati to play the Reds yesterday and loss 4-0. The Marlins new pitcher Mark Buehrle had a good outing but did not have the offense behind him to have any chance of succeeding in this game. Cincinnati dominated with the pitching of Cueto and the offensive power of players like Jay Bruce.
The bottom line after two games is that the Marlins offense has sucked! The entire team is batting below .200. The pitching is good but the team can’t succeed without the offense they are supposed to have. Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton have been the two biggest problems on offense so far. Neither player have reached base off a hit in a combined 16 plate appearances. They need to get it together quick or the team will be fighting to get back in the standings before April is over.
They have Friday off and will certainly be gathering themselves to play the Reds again on Saturday. The team has finally garnered the attention of the nation and has opened up like the Marlins of old. Time is precious and this team could get down in the dumps really quick. I feel the Marlins need to snap out of this 2 game slump and play like the playoff contenders they are. All of that money spent on free agents and new manager needs to be redeemed with wins. The wins must start Saturday night!