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Divisional Playoffs need to be best-of-seven series

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I know there are thousands of you out there, because you have subscribed to our magazine for many, many years. I am talking about the valued core of our SCD readership, and I suspect they frequently harbor views not terribly dissimilar to my own.

Having made that observation, I wonder how many of you are bothered by the current MLB Playoff situation that can abruptly end a team’s spectacular season in a mere three games, obviously, assuming a sweep in the first round, or Divisional Series. I guess we should be thankful it’s not called the Valvoline Divisional Series.

For readers anywhere close to my age, we still remember when teams labored through 162-game schedules to find themselves with at least half of the ultimate prize: a trip to the World Series.
Now, I am not whining about the switch to the playoff format, since I understand that adding so many teams to the mix and the unquenchable thirst for television revenue made the expansion of the post-season inevitable. But somewhere around 20 years ago, maybe when my Mets were battling the Astros to get into the World Series, it occured to me that one of the effects of the change was to occasionally make the playoff rounds more exciting than the Series.

And that situation makes the five-game opening round of the playoffs problematic, because a team can simply lose a couple of games and suddenly be finished before they even get started. It just seems like the seven-game affair would lessen the odds of that a bit, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the powers-that-be moved to that eventually. Their motivation would likely be the additional stadium and TV revenue, but the impact would be an overall positive anyway.
I have to think that someday MLB is going to decide that having a five-game first round is an idea whose time has passed.

Upsets can be exciting, but I am sure MLB executives wince a little bit when the Nielsen Ratings come in from small-market tangles like Colorado vs. Arizona in the NLCS, especially with Chicago and Philadelphia sent to the showers.

Mourning my Mets and phretting over Phillies

It was bad enough that the Mets had to pull off one of the greatest collapses in baseball history, but to have the recipient of all this largesse be the Philadelphia Phillies just made it all the worse. It is no consolation whatsoever that the Phillies got pummelled by a Colorado avalanche in the playoffs. That development and the precarious perch the Yankees are holding onto at the moment (down two games to one) merely emphasize my earlier point about the need to make the first round of the playoffs a best-out-of-seven games affair.

I am not sure where my dislike of the Phillies developed, since I used to like them in the mid-1960s when they had Richie Allen. In the 1980s, I used to live about an hour or so outside of Philadelphia, and I guess I started to get aggravated with them when they started thumping my Metsies in the mid-to-late 1970s.

But I should probably be more grateful to the Phillies 1983 club that made it to the World Series, because they almost, emphasis on almost, got me into a USA Today feature story that October.

I was running my O’Connell & Son Ink fledgling little company in those days, doing the artwork at night and sending out my orders in the morning. That left the afternoons for one of my great passions, playing pool, and it was in a Newark, Del., poolroom that the World Series saga unfolded.

A writer from USA Today, the then 1-year-old newspaper, turned up at Don’s Billiards after having taken out a compass and a ruler and determined that Newark, Del., was the exact halfway point between the AL Champion Baltimore Orioles and their NL counterpart Phillies.

The story essentially involved quotes from the various reprobates (I include myself in that description) about where their loyalties landed for the upcoming 1983 World Series. The writer was operating under the presumption that being exactly the same distance between the two cities would somehow cause a good deal of angst for the denizens of the poolroom.

In truth, the people in that area seemed to lean more to the Phillies than the Orioles, but the USA Today writer seemed more intrigued by the fact that I was an expatriated Mets fan.

I was pretty pumped about being quoted in the new “National Newspaper,” but ultimately Mike Boddicker’s mom bumped us off the first page of the Life Section. And they didn’t even bump it to pages further back in the newspaper – the story was simply killed. Seems they weren’t as intrigued with our World Series prognostications as we might have hoped.