For some reason, nobody out there (except us) seems to be getting too worked up about baseball's worst October scheduling nightmares. But in a few days, let's just say that could change. Boy, could it ever.
What would happen, you ask, if the Yankees, Orioles, A's and Angels finish with the same record? Well, the World Series would be over by Thanksgiving. But that's about the only good news.
Here's how the American League's various tiebreaker scenarios would unfold:
If the Yankees, Orioles, A's and Angels all tie, here's the craziness that scenario would set off:
The Yankees and Orioles would have to play off in Baltimore on the day after the season (Thursday, Oct. 4) to settle the AL East. Meanwhile, the Angels and A's would kick off the wild-card tiebreaker festivities by facing each other Thursday in Oakland. The winner of that game would be considered "the first wild-card team."
The loser of the AL East showdown would then live to play another day -- by facing the loser of that Angels-A's game somewhere or other, for the final wild-card slot. But where? Nobody would have any idea.
If the Orioles lose to the Yankees, they'd have to climb onto a plane, cross three time zones and play in either Oakland or Anaheim on Friday, because they lost the season series against both the A's (4-5) and Angels (2-7)..
But if it's the Yankees playing that wild-card game, it works the other way around. They would host either the Angels or the A's. So either way, both tiebreaker games would have to be day games Thursday, just to leave time for all the coast-to-coast travel possibilities -- and because nobody would even know which COAST Friday's game would be played on until after the Thursday games.
So got all that? No matter how the AL East turns out Thursday, somebody has to cross the country to play that wild-card game the next day. We just wouldn't know where until it's all played out.
And if the team that zips across the good old U.S.A. wins that wild-card game, it gets to scramble back onto the plane and fly back across those many time zones -- because it then hosts Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series.
So what if only three of those clubs tie for that second wild-card spot? Depending on which teams tie, it gets just as nutty.
If these three teams end up deadlocked, the Angels would get to pick whether to play one road game or two home games. That's because they had the best head-to-head record among those three. We're guessing they'd opt to play just once. But they might want to reconsider, unless they want to risk another frequent-flier-mile extravaganza.
If they choose the one road game, then there's an A's-Orioles game Thursday, in Oakland. But if the Orioles win that one, it means (theoretically) that both the Angels and Orioles would have to fly to Baltimore for the wild-card game THE NEXT DAY. So would the Angels choose two home games over one road game? Interesting question.
A similar mess presents itself if these three clubs tie. But this time it would be the Yankees who would have to decide whether to play two games at Yankee Stadium or one game on the West Coast. It wouldn't be an easy decision. Would it?
Say they pick the two home games. That creates major headaches for both of their potential opponents.
Then the Angels would be forced to play Wednesday in Seattle (their final game of the regular season) and that tiebreaker game Thursday in New York. And if the Yankees take care of business and win that game, the A's would have to jet east and play Friday in New York.
But suppose the Angels win that Thursday tiebreaker in New York? Hoo-boy. More insanity.
Then the Angels, after playing Wednesday in the Pacific time zone and Thursday in the Eastern time zone, would be scheduled, at least in theory, to play Friday back in the Pacific time zone in Oakland. But baseball would almost certainly step in and push that game back to Saturday.
Meanwhile, imagine the fate of the A's. They'd be sitting around in Oakland, watching the Yankees and Angels play -- not knowing whether they'd have a game in New York the next day or a home game against the Angels on Friday or Saturday.
But that scenario occurs only if the Yankees choose to roll the dice on two home games. If the Yankees choose to play one game, there's a whole different scenario.
If they go that route, at least the Yankees then would know for sure they'd be playing in California on Friday. They just wouldn't know where in California until the A's and Angels finish playing off in Oakland on Thursday, because the winner of that Thursday game would host the Friday game. So would they get on a plane and just circle over the desert until that game is over? They might have to.
And, of course, if the Yankees win Thursday, their first Division Series game would be (where else?) back in New York. Let's hope they enjoy airplane food.
This is another messy scenario -- of course!
First order of business: Decide the AL East. So the Yankees and Orioles would play Thursday in Baltimore. The winner is the AL East champ. The loser has to (you guessed it) rush to the airport and play Friday in Anaheim. Why? Because baseball for some reason decided to do it that way. So the loser of the division tiebreaker game is supposed to play at the home of the other team involved in this tie. So don't ask why. Maybe this formula was devised by the airline industry. You've got us.
And if that AL East team flies many time zones to the west and beats the Angels, you know by now where the Division Series begins. Back east. Obviously.
Same deal. Yankees and Orioles play in Baltimore on Thursday. Loser plays Friday in Oakland. Winner hosts Game 1 of the Division Series -- on one coast or the other.
And the moral of the story? Anybody got any good folk remedies for jet lag?