So the Cardinals and Astros have a little two-game series starting tomorrow, and with the Astros lead in the Wild Card down to one game, it has some major playoff ramifications. So the questions becomes, how hard do the Cards try?
Yeah, they are competitors, and they want to finish the season strong. Chris Carpenter is pitching for the Cy Young. But is it possible that somewhere, deep in the back of their minds, they realize that things are better for them if the Astros win the Wild Card?
You see, because of MLB’s ridiculous playoff setup, the team with the best record (i.e., the Cardinals) plays the Wild Card team, unless the two are in the same division, in which case the division winner with the second-best record plays the Wild Card. So in this situation, if the Phillies win the WC, then they play the Cardinals in the first round. If the Astros win the WC, they will play Atlanta in the first round. And if the Astros play the Braves, who does that leave for the Cards? The Padres, who are clearing a place on their mantel for their “Worst Playoff Team in History” trophy.
This is a really braindead setup they have going on in baseball. It should be a simple seeding thing. The team with the best record (Cardinals) should play the team with the worst record (Padres) regardless of whether they won their divisions or if they are in the same division or whatever. The reasoning I have heard for the current setup — teams that play each other so many times in the regular season shouldn’t play in the first round — makes no sense. Would it be a disadvantage for the Cardinals to play the Astros in the first round this year? Yes, but not because they are so familiar with each other, but because there is a crappy team out there (the Padres) who the Cards have earned the right to play.
So anyway, this two-game series could be huge for the Astros, which means it could be huge for the Cardinals. How often do you have a series where both teams would be equally well-served if one team swept? And how messed up is the system that creates such a series?
So, I guess the answer is “not that hard”. Cards drop both games? That was ridiculous.
But, if it came down to facing the Astros or Padres in the First Round…I can’t say that I wouldn’t have put my second string guys out there for most of the game either.