COLUMN: 106-win Dodgers in NL Wild Card game proves MLB playoff rules are flawed

Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner hits a solo home run during the fourth inning of a National League Wild Card playoff baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Even before the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card game Wednesday, Major League Baseball’s playoff seeding rules were flawed.

Regardless of the Cardinals-Dodgers winner, despite the San Francisco Giants (107-55) earning Major League Baseball’s best record for the 2021 season, their first playoff opponent would be against the team that didn’t have the worst record among NL playoff teams.

How is that logical? It’s not.

MLB’s current rules guarantee each division winner in both the American and National Leagues at least a best-of-five series, with the team with the best record from each league facing off against the respective Wild Card game victor.

The Dodgers (106-56), who finished one game back of the Giants in the National League West division, earned one of two NL wild-card spots along with the St. Louis Cardinals (90-72). As a result, those two teams played each other in a winner-take-all matchup for the right to face the National League’s best team, which in this case, is the Giants.

It was a great game with an even better finish thanks to Chris Taylor’s 2-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. But now, the best team in the regular season’s first playoff opponent is the second-best team in the regular season.

How is that fair? It’s not.

Even if St. Louis pulled off the upset win in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s NLDS matchup still wouldn’t have made sense when you factor in the NL East champion Atlanta Braves, who finished with 88 wins and 72 losses, the worst record among any MLB playoff team.

The Dodgers and Giants series will be epic. At least we’re guaranteed that. But Major League Baseball’s current rules limit this series to a best-of-five, and allowing that to happen is a failure that needs to be addressed in the offseason.

If the bare-minimum rule of playoff reseeding followed each round, then the Dodgers-Giants matchup could’ve been a best-of-seven series if those two teams advanced to the National League Championship Series. Instead, we’ll see a maximum of five games with these two teams in the playoffs.

How is this the best thing for baseball? It’s not.

Here are the current 2021 National League playoff matchups in table form:

5. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72)4. Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56)
National League Wild Card (Dodgers win 3-1)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (107-56)1. San Francisco Giants* (107-55)
3. Atlanta Braves* (88-72)2. Milwaukee Brewers* (95-67)
National League Division Series (*-division winner)

This season proves now more than ever that even if a team wins its division, it shouldn’t be guaranteed a best-of-five series. Here’s what the playoff picture would look like if they sorted each league playoff by regular-season records:

5. Atlanta Braves (88-72)4. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72)
National League Wild Card
4. ATL-STL winner1. San Francisco Giants (107-55)
3. Milwaukee Brewers (95-67)2. Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56)
National League Division Series

The obvious change would be the National League Wild Card game. Instead of the Braves visiting the Brewers for a best-of-five series to begin their playoff run, they’d have to not only win a wild-card game, but do so on the road in St. Louis because of the Braves’ worst record among NL playoff teams.

Whoever wins that game would then face the Giants, a team that won at least 17 more games in the regular season than their first playoff opponent.

A team with 107 wins over a course of 162 games not playing a 106-win team to start its postseason? That’s fair.

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