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|The players aren't the only ones hoping for another season in Montreal.|
You may have heard the news this week that baseball finally revamped its tiebreaker rules this year. Wrong, Players Association's associate general counsel Gene Orza says. Those rules actually were changed last year, after being agreed to during the labor negotiations.
Whatever, the new rules make much more sense from a competitive standpoint -- but could easily cause a logistical postseason nightmare. Here's why:
Suppose the Cubs, Astros and Dodgers all finish this season with the same record -- but the Cubs and Astros are tied for first in the NL Central, while the Dodgers have the best record in the wild-card free-for-all. Under the old rules, it would have been the Dodgers who were guaranteed a playoff spot, not the teams that tied for first.
The Cubs and Astros would have played off for first place in the Central. That game, in keeping with tradition, would have counted in the standings. So the loser would have been eliminated, because the Dodgers would have been a half-game ahead of it in the standings.
Now, however, it wouldn't work that way. Under the new rules, the Cubs and Astros would play on the Monday after the season for the division. Then the loser would get a second chance and play the Dodgers on Tuesday.
On a philosophical basis, if you believe there should be some premium on finishing in first place, that makes sense. But imagine the practical side of that scenario.
The Astros finish the season on a Sunday in Houston. Depending on coin flips, they then could face this itinerary: Fly to Chicago and lose to the Cubs in Chicago on Monday. Then fly to Los Angeles and beat the Dodgers on Tuesday. Then fly to Atlanta and play the Braves in the playoffs Wednesday. Then jump on a plane back to Houston after the game Thursday.
Meanwhile, both NL Division Series are supposed to open on Tuesday. Instead, one would have to be pushed back a day. Which then pushes back the rest of the series a day. Which pushes back the NLCS. Which could slam into the World Series and mean no Saturday night game to open the Series. And boy, would that get nutty, after all of Bud Selig's talk about how impossible it is to get World Series hotel rooms on short notice.
And don't even ask what happens if the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, Marlins and Phillies all finish with the same record. Baseball doesn't even have a plan for that one. They would need a special meeting to figure it out.
"It's all well and good to decide these things on the field," Orza said. "But everyone needs to be aware that doing that can clash with practicality on occasion. And people have to understand that. You can't decide everything on the field, or some year the World Series will be played in December."
Another byproduct of this change is this bit of illogic: Everything about that Cubs-Astros game would count in the regular-season statistics, but not in the regular-season standings. Same with the game against the Dodgers the next day. On the other hand, if there is a tie for the division -- but no tie with a third club for the wild card -- the playoff game does count in the standings. Only in baseball.