Every baseball offseason there is a ton of news that doesn’t really effect the Mariners in any way. Heath Bell signs with the Marlins? Who cares. Theo Epstein becomes the Cubs GM? Who cares. (Well me, because I am a Cubs fan second). But sometimes there is news that probably will have no effect on the Mariners this year, but could greatly impact their future. Like the Astros sale and subsequent expected move to the AL West, and the expansion of the playoffs to 10 teams.
My gut instinct is to not like this. I like the romance around baseball’s silly traditions that don’t match up with other sports. Imagine if the AFC played under different rules than the NFC, and were allowed a designated 12th player on offense. Imagine if teams could change the length of their basketball court, or the height of their hoops. That would be some crazy shit. Baseball has all that crazy shit. And less playoff teams than any major sport. That was kind of cool. It made every Mariners playoff appearance feel really special and unique. It probably also made them less frequent, too.
I was too young to know a whole ton of the specifics of the playoffs before the Mariners made the playoffs in 1995. I understand that this isn’t the first time the playoffs have expanded. It’s not the first time it’s been controversial. But it’s the first time that I’ve known the postseason to change, so it all seems weird and a little bit dirty to me.
For the immediate future this is good for the Mariners, though. If they’re going to make the playoffs they may be taking the second Wild Card spot. But perhaps more importantly, if they are sellers at the trade deadline, they’ll presumably have a more broad market for their trade candidates, as more teams will be in contention for the playoffs.
It’s kind of a strange juxtaposition for me to be both obsessed with advanced statistical analysis, but emotionally rooted in tradition. I can’t promise that the first playoff game will feel any less icky than the first All Star game “that counted,” but I promise it is here to stay.