Every October an amazing event happens that brings me more joy, heartbreak and entertainment than any other. Unfortunately the MLB Postseason goes by mostly unnoticed except by seemingly fewer and fewer fans who enjoy baseball. Well this is for all you who may not know, like or care about baseball, I'll catch you up so you won't have to admit you haven't been watching like an unamerican dope.
In an effort to capture the magic of the previous season’s game 162, in which two teams clinched their playoff spot on the last day of the season, MLB’s Commissioner Bud Selig instituted a new Wild Card system where the teams with the two best records who did not win their division would play a one game playoff to determine who gets into the series play of the later rounds. It’s winner move on, loser go home in a game that seems out of place by most baseball postseason standards. Unfair circumstances where a team superior in every way can lose to a team who barely even has a winning record based on a random bounce. This game is nothing but manufactured suspense and drama.
It is also a thrilling, edge of your seat event that can all hinge on one pitch. Despite what purist baseball fans may think about it this game is one of the best things about the season. This year in both the American and National league 6 games separate the teams about to face off in these elimination games. Those leads may mean absolutely nothing if a starter inexplicably implodes under the pressure or an unexpected hero rises to the occasion at the right time. Sure, the fans of a team who may get beat in a game that goes against everything the long 162 game season teaches us may complain but who cares, everyone else gets to watch the most thrilling type of baseball available. The entire postseason is a crap shoot in which the best team rarely ever wins the World Series so seeing that embodied in one game is an amazing appetizer for what is to come. So far in four of years of this format one team who has won this game has gone on to win the whole thing, will one of these four be next?
AL Wild Card:
It has been said that this is the most likeable Yankees team ever assembled. To which I respond the words 'likeable' and 'Yankees' should never be in the same sentence unless there is an 'un' involved. If you want to get in on the ground floor for hating the next Yankee dynasty this is the time. Aaron Judge put up a monster season for the ages rarely ever seen from a rookie and the potential of seeing him launch a baseball into orbit when all the cards are on the table is worth tuning in itself. Gary Sanchez is probably the better of the two young players and he’s playing second fiddle to Judge but either or both are more than capable of stepping up and making themselves the next Yankee great we will love to hate. Luis Severino who came out of nowhere after some mix results in previous seasons became the third best pitcher in the American League, after some advice from a rival team's legend, will likely take the hill and if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching him pitch you’re in for a treat. With the young guys on this roster and their farm system still pretty stacked they are looking kick open their window of success at least a year earlier than most people thought.
Their opponent will be the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have literally never beaten the Yankees, ever. Don't bother to look it up just take my word for it. They are the ultimate underdog team in this fight. After having their first winning season in half a decade in 2015 and showing potential for growth they fell to last place in their division in 2016, losing 100 games. Well this year they put that past them and managed to outlast seemingly every other A.L. team in the final week of the season for a Wild Card berth no one seemed to want to claim. This team is lead by some fun and exciting young players of their own Jose Berrios, whose remarkable talent we may not get to see unless they advance. Byron Buxton who was billed as possibly better than Mike Trout, he’s not, is starting to blossom into a star. Miguel Sano who has almost as much power as Judge or Giancarlo Stanton is back from a late season injury just in time but will he be able to shake off the cobwebs to make difference? Rounding out their roster is some veterans everyone loves to root for like Bartolo Colon and Joe Mauer and obscure players most people couldn't pick out of a random list of names. This team has it’s work cut out for it but has the support of the country behind them especially against the evil team from the Bronx.
N.L. Wild Card
Living in Phoenix I tend to follow the Diamondbacks more than most given that they’re a small market team. Many only watched their previous front office make terrible move after terrible move so it’s understandable that very little was expected of a team that shared a division with the behemoth Dodgers, the always overperforming Giants and the rising stars of the Rockies. I was one of very few who expected big things of them this season a year removed from pushing all in and having almost everything go wrong. They have two of the most underrated players in the league in Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta who would likely be stars in almost any other market but are rarely discussed outside of baseball die hard circles. The new, much wiser, front office went out and got a midseason replacement in the outfield who went on to be one of if not the most valuable player in baseball in his short time with the team. J.D. Martinez appropriately nicknamed “Just Dingers” for his ability to hit nothing but home run may likely be the difference in this game and into October and he was acquired for next to nothing. I was there the last time this team was in the playoffs in a non elimination game and that stadium was electric, I can only imagine what kind of a feel this home crowd will provided for the drama of the postseason.
The Rockies of 2017 were captivating throughout the entire season. They defied the construction of their stars and scrubs roster including a blind first baseman and all the disadvantages of their offensive tinderbox home park and finally clinched their playoff spot on the second to last game of the season. It has been almost ten years since they stormed the playoffs in 2007 and this team would destroy that one. If the Diamondbacks have two of the most underrated players the Rockies have the two MOST underrated players on their roster. Nolan Arrenado is the likely the best player you’ve never heard of or if you have I guarantee he’s better than you think he is, watching him in the field and at the plate is truly amazing and I can’t wait for the world to see him. Charlie Blackmon may be having the best season of any player on the Rockies this year and has only gotten better at the plate every year he’s been in MLB. He’s rounded out his defense and his power took another step forward this year and though Greinke, the D-Backs likely starter, has historically gotten the better of him batter/pitcher matchups mean nothing, particularly if he parks one in the pool of Chase Field to quiet the crowd Watching these two homegrown players give their beleaguered fan base some hope this season has already been a great storyline but getting them past a clearly superior team might be the icing on the cake. Not to mention they have the best hashtag for the postseason #Rocktober.