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A look back, a look forward

For three straight years, from 2007 to 2009, the Monday after the regular-season finale blessed us with that most frazzled, most intense of baseball experiences -- the one-game playoff. This year, alas, the streak was broken, as the remaining playoff races (the NL West and NL wild card) were decided on Sunday.

And so, we say goodbye to the San Diego Padres, who held a 6 1/2-game lead in the NL West in late August, coughed the whole thing up amid a 10-game losing streak that bled into September, recovered enough to give themselves a chance on the season's final day -- only to leave their hearts in San Francisco. But kudos to Padres GM Jed Hoyer and Manager Bud Black for an amazing run that few saw coming.

We'll post some playoff predictions here on Wednesday, so gather your thoughts and be ready to post your own picks in the comments section here. In the meantime, here are a few more thoughts as we look back at the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs:

*I got some nasty e-mails from Yankees fans a couple of weeks ago, when I suggested the Bronx Bombers were not going all-out to win the AL East. I never said they were actually tanking the division race -- only that the fallback position of getting into the playoffs as the wild card gave them the option of playing conservatively down the stretch.

In hindsight, I think that is exactly what the Yankees did. And I think they are better off for it, with a rested bullpen and lineup. True, the approach cost them home field advantage in the first two rounds, but that's not a big deal.

*The Braves snuck in as the NL wild card, and thus the extension of Bobby Cox's final season as their manager becomes one of the top stories of the postseason. But have you seen the lineup they're running out there these days? It's hard to envision them going very far -- but then again, it's hard to imagine how those great Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s won only one World Series. Maybe karma owes them one.

*The Giants made a strong play earlier in the week to throw ace Tim Lincecum on three days' rest on Thursday a day earlier than scheduled, thus saving him for a possible one-game playoff today -- or, in the scenario that wound up playing out, having him ready to go in Game 1 Thursday on extra rest. The Giants' offense is iffy, but their starting pitching gives them a chance to make a deep run.

*We won't tabulate the results and name a winner of our 2010 preseason picks contest until all the major awards are handed out in November. (For what it's worth, I'm already pretty much dead, thanks to a dumb! dumb! dumb! pick of the Red Sox winning the World Series; but Kilgore is very much alive, with a Rays-over-Giants pick in the World Series.) Still, it's interesting to go back and look at how we all envisioned things playing out.

Only one of our 66 participants (username: mikebooth22msncom) picked the Reds to win the NL Central, and nobody picked the Padres to win the NL West.

*I'll be covering the first two games of the Reds/Phillies series in Philadelphia this week, then shooting up to the Bronx for Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) of Yankees/Twins. Remember to check back here on Wednesday for our postseason picks.

By Dave Sheinin  | October 4, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
 
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Next: Postseason predictions -- or, as Boz calls it, 'sheer folly'

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