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Results Are Microwavable

Wait -- it's Saturday morning! We've had postseason baseball for all of 60 hours, and you're telling me the LCS matchups are already set? Perhaps that's the only conclusion here. Eight games in, and the headlines are all bold. Baseball's two best teams (the Angels and Cubs) are nearly extinct, both losing two at home. Two old war horses, the Red Sox and Dodgers, look like they were underestimated. The Rays are just as good as they are young. And the Brewers, who waged everything just to make the playoffs this year, might be finished by the early evening -- with CC Sabathia on the first plane to Cali.

Conceivably, every series could end in a sweep, meaning the minimum of 12 games were played to determine the winners. That's never happened before in the 13 previous years of the Division Series.

That said, we've seen some lopsided first-round match-ups before. Last year, all four series started out 2-0. Three of them ended in sweeps. The other, Yankees-Indians, ended 3-1 in favor of Cleveland.

So what do you think? Does any team trailing in a Division Series right now have a chance to come back?

I'm giving the ChiSox the best chance. They've battled through tight spots before, they play their next two at home (with Danks and Floyd on the mound -- both familiar figures from last week), and might be able to push the Rays into a nervous corner. You can't entirely count the Cubs and Angels out, either, just because their pitching is so established and their track records so formidable. The Brewers have the smallest chance of the four; they'd need wins from Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan to make CC relevant again.

By Chico Harlan  |  October 4, 2008; 8:57 AM ET
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The Brewers have no chance against Moses . . . I mean, Jamie Moyer, today.

Seriously, this first round of the playoffs is a joke. The run-up to the Divisional Series - the last week of the regular season - was awesome. But this first week of the post-season has been a yawner. A few good games, for sure, but overall not very good competition. Would a 7-game series make it better? Perhaps. But then would we just have four-game sweeps instead of three-game sweeps?

A team who fought all season just to make it to second place (the Red Sox) is likely to pick off in a five game series the team with the best record. Fair? And a team who sputtered into the playoffs (the Brewers) will sputter out just as quickly. Is this the nature of true competition? Is this very interesting or intriguing to baseball fans?

The Wild Card makes for a great late September. But it also makes for a rather boring early October.

Posted by: Philly Phan in Phairfax | October 4, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'd go with the Cubs. With Harden and Lilly they have the starters to turn things around. Chico, here's hoping you make it back to Wrigleyville. And if you've made it to Alinea already, I hope you will eventually treat us to a review on NJ.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | October 4, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Phillyfan: I certainly wouldn't call last night's Boston-LAA game boring ... Dice's high-wire act is certainly entertaining, and the top-of-the-ninth homer from J.D. Drew stunned everyone after the Angels had come back against Papelbon. Fair? LA beat the Red Sox like a drum all year and had them for two at home to start the series. I'd call that more than fair. If the teams with the best records want to play on, they have to beat someone in October. As for Boston fighting all year for 2nd place, are you suggesting that they don't deserve their shot? They had a better record than the White Sox, the Phillies and the Dodgers ...

Posted by: oldchief15 | October 4, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Boston and New York are the baseball capitols of the USA, with the most passionate, knowledgeable fans. The Marlins should move to New York - that market would support a third team that sold season tickets for 1/2 what the Yankees and Mets do. But in no sense is Boston the under-dog, and, when I have no team in the playoffs (Nats fan God help me! for the moment, but rethinking because of micro-managing billionaire owners), I root for the underdog. Rooted for the Rockies against the Sawx last year even though I loved living in Boston and going to Fenway. 2004 ALCS (Boz is right-greatest playoff series ever) I rooted for the Red Sox against the Yankees; 2003, for Marlins against Yankees; 2004 Angels v. Giants, Angels because they'd beaten the Yankees; 2001, Diamondbacks against Yankees (what a Series! I remember Costas saying what a privilege it was to call it). Then again, I rooted for the Tigers against the Cardinals in 2006, I guess because of that 103 loss season. It's irrational, but a common theme is that my heart goes out to the underdog. Rationally, all of us around here should be Yankee fans because of what George Steinbrenner did for Va. Tech, but I just can't do it. Also, rationally, we should root for huge payroll teams because they don't sell off their good talent a la the Marlins, but pay to keep the home-town favorites. I'm should root for the Rays in the AL because Jhonny Gomes is in their dugout (barely-spends most of his time in the minors) and was homeless growing up, actually living with his family in a car. And he is an all-time good guy.

Posted by: flynnie | October 4, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I don't like that there are four teams in the NL Central with better records than the victor in the NL West . . . these terribly thin divisions don't create the best post season competition (a few years ago the Phillies ended the season in 2nd place, but out of wild card contention, yet with a better record than another division's first place team).

I actually would mind seeing some sort of realignment of the schedule, a weighted schedule based on previous season's record, not unlike what the NFL has. We already have their wildcard and their countless divisions . . . That way the Yankees and Red Sox of the world play more games against the Angels and Rays, and fewer against the Orioles or Mariners.

But also, if we're going to allow a second-place team into the post-season (flying the face of pre-wild card baseball history), that team should have a harder road to walk. Perhaps two wild-card teams per league, fighting a death match - three quick games, alternating cities - for the final post-season spot -- allowing those first place teams a time to rest and get their pitchers in position.

Just some thoughts . . .

Posted by: Philly Phan in Phairfax | October 4, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Philly: I am not sure that I agree with punishing the wild card teams ... they just won the equivalent of a "fourth division" in each league ... As you noted, the divisions are constructed rather arbitrarily anyway, with some of them substantially weaker than the others. The "wild card division" at least has the virtue of including teams based on current performance, not geographical convenience. It also helps some teams that may not have the revenue stream to compete consistently in their own division (OK, I'm obviously not talking about Boston here). Still, after 15 seasons, its sort of hard to argue that the inclusion of these 2nd place finishers sullies some great tradiiton. If you really want to go with the worthiest teams, why not a single division with the top four going to the playoffs? As for an unbalanced schedule, I think the Sox and the Rays saw plenty of each other this year, and the eight of nine that Boston lost to LAA was enough for my tastes. BTW, speaking of some teams playing tougher schedules than others, how do you feel about killing interleague games?

Posted by: oldchief | October 4, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm just going to point to this analysis about strength of schedule and teams. The bottom line is that if you want the best teams in baseball competing in the playoffs, the real "reform" would be to have 7 AL teams and 1 NL team.

Posted by: PTBNL | October 4, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

PTBNL: Well, there is plenty of eyeball evidence to support these numbers ... The NL has looked lousy in interleague play (and the Series) for a while. If Detroit hadn't decide to forget how to play baseball against the Cards, the only NL Series winners in recent memory were two expansion teams. This suggests that there are traditions and practices in the NL that are perpetuating this imbalance ... I love the law of large numbers!

Posted by: oldchief | October 4, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

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