MLB Spring Training 2012: Thoughts On Playoff Expansion, Yu Darvish Debut And A Johan Santana Sighting

Spring is upon us and that means baseball. The Locker will be bringing periodic articles and notes from the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues until the start of the 2012 baseball season. 

I’m one of the biggest Major League Baseball fans around and I have to tell you this expanded playoff format doesn’t make me happy. You have a 162-game schedule and if that isn’t grueling enough the winners of the three divisions in each league now have to worry about not one wildcard, but two. That means a third place team from a division could make the playoffs without truly deserving to be there. 

Spare me your lectures. I’ve got reasons for my displeasure.

Some will argue that those third place teams are just as capable of winning the world series as anyone else. Okay, do you want to just scrap all 162-games, drop it to about 45 and then have an NCAA basketball style tourney to determine who plays 4-of-7 for the World Series? No? Didn’t think so. If they were “just as capable as any other team” they would have done it between the months of April and September. That Argument is ridiculous and without merit.

I will give you a scenario of why. In 2010, the new format would have put the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees for a one game playoff. Most in television would have loved this match-up to determine who goes on to the division series. Most except that New York Yankees team who played 162 games for the right to play in the division series because they outlasted that Red Sox team in the regular season. Even worse, how would it have looked had the Yankees with 95 wins that year lost to an 89 win Red Sox squad they had already outpaced in the regular season. On top of that, what kind of situation would the Yankees have been faced with having to use their ace on a team they beat in the regular season just to get into the next round? This would have been true in any other year as well.

Are you getting my point here?

While most are enamored with the drama of a one-game playoff (a game seven if you will) I say let baseball be the way it is. Seventh games in a playoff series are special for a reason; you have to play well to get to them and it determines who the best of the best is after a long regular season and postseason series. Diluting the system (i.e. every season) with them is something I am vehemently opposed to.

Of course, being the sucker I am for baseball, I will watch. That doesn’t, however, mean I have to be happy about it.


Yu Darvish start was nothing to write home about:  Yu Darvish made his first start for the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. He threw two scoreless innings in his debut while striking out three. I take this with a grain of salt. Watching his first start he had decent control of his breaking pitches (particularly his change-up) and his fastball was a little flat causing a lot of balls to be hit hard. It is too early to go one way or the other on Darvish. Excitement will be tempered until we get later in the month and start seeing him go between five and six innings against with his full repertoire.

Johan Santana, Stephen Strasburg sighting: There was an familiar yet unfamiliar face on the mound Wednesday. New York Mets ace Johan Santana faced big league competition for the first time since 2010 and looked pretty good. Fastball was down a few miles per hour but he got a lot of ground ball outs and looked good moving around on the mound. A welcome sight for New York Met (and baseball) fans.

On Sunday, The Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound to face the Houston Astros in his first outing. He looked to be in form as he struck out three and giving up two runs on 44 pitches (26 strikes). For an initial outing he looked good and had great movement on his breaking pitches. A welcome sign coming off Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire 2011. The Nationals are banking on Strasburg to play a major role in their rotation this season and this has to be a great sight for teammates and officials alike.


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