The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are tied with eight weeks to go, and open a three-game series tonight. But thanks to Major League Baseball’s antiquated playoff system, what should be an epic pennant race between baseball’s two most popular teams, will instead be a gigantic yawn as both teams prep for the playoffs.
According to CoolStandings.com, the Red Sox have a 98.0 per cent shot at making the playoffs, and the Yankees playoff chances sit at 98.6. That’s about as close to a guarantee as you can have with nearly one-third of the season remaining.
The American League East is routinely mentioned as the best division in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays would be just 1.5 games out in the Central division and 3 games back in the West. But in the East, they are 11 games out of first place, and 10 games back in the Wild Card.
This means, that with more than 50 games to go, the Rays, five games over .500, are already eliminated from the playoffs (CoolStandings gives the Rays a 1.7% chance of making playoffs, which is about the same chance of the entire Yankees roster being mauled by grizzly bears). This would be the equivalent of the New York Jets being eliminated from the playoff race at 6-5.
But thanks to the baseball’s one-wild card format, not only are the Rays already eliminated, but the Red Sox and Yankees have almost nothing to play for down the stretch. Do you think either team is worried too much about facing the Tigers or the winner of the Rangers/Angels race in the West? Hardly.
Thankfully, MLB will add a second wild card to each league in 2012. And while some would like to see the elimination of divisions, the networks will never allow a balanced schedule, and the increased number of cross-country games that are out of prime time.
So we can look forward to some exciting playoff races in 2012. But in 2011, the best pennant race is right in front of our face, and it will never happen.