MLB teams fall victim to finicky division playoffs

Photo courtesy of | Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals failed to reach the National League Championship Series (NLCS) after losing in Game 5 to the Chicago Cubs last week. This continues a trend of sports teams in the Washington, D.C., area struggling to advance in early postseason action.

Finicky: Adj. – Requiring much care, precision or attentive effort.

Merriam-Webster lists those seven words as the definition of finicky, an adjective that is synonymous with the Major League Baseball playoffs.

You see, there is a reason baseball is the national pastime. It’s played nearly every day for months during the summer, and it works around your availability. It gives fans the chance to decide how much they want to invest into the 162-game grind. Watch every game? Go right ahead. Watch a few innings here and there and check the standings? All yours. Go to the games, socialize, have a drink, and enjoy a nice, warm summer evening? Go for it.

The duration of the season leaves both players and fans open to a rollercoaster ride. You probably don’t remember every game like you can from an NFL schedule. What you remember most, and what the players’ legacies are frequently built on is their performance during the month of October.

This brings us to the debacle of the Division Series games for two franchises in particular. The Cleveland Indians, likely one rain delay away from a World Series title just one year ago, rattled off one of their best regular seasons in franchise history. From late August through the middle of September, they won 22 straight games. 22. That just, well, doesn’t happen. In baseball, if you win six or seven in a row that’s a newsworthy item. At 10, cities really take notice. 22? Come on.

That’s all fine and dandy, but as the Chicago Bulls used to say, “It doesn’t mean a thing without the ring.” Enter October. The Indians squared off against baseball’s most historic and successful franchise, the New York Yankees. A team with 27 of those rings, the Yankees found themselves down two games to none in a best-of-five series to those Indians.

With the series moving back to New York for Game 3, a fan tweeted at the Indians’ second baseman Jose Ramirez and said, “Hahaha you’re about to take a fat L” to which Ramirez responded, “We’re 3-0 at Yankee Stadium this year cupcake.”

Baseball happened, and the Yankees won the next three games to win the series, eliminate a World Series contender and wash that incredible regular season from the minds of many baseball fans.

Then there’s the Washington Nationals, a team representing a city that has not seen one of its major professional sports teams win at least a conference semifinal since 1998 (the only city with a longer drought with more than one team? Cincinnati from 1995).

The Nationals have won the NL East four times in the past six seasons. Yet every NLDS has seen heartbreak in one form or another.

This year, after winning four out of the seven games against the Chicago Cubs in the regular season, the Nats fell to the Cubs in a gut-wrenching Game 5 that saw some sloppy play, questionable calls and a lot of runs.

Yet, the Nats were on the losing end of the 9-8 affair, and the perennial World Series contenders were left yet again with a longer winter than expected.

In baseball, unlike in other professional sports, the best team might not always win.

In the NBA, by the end of the best-of-seven series, the dominant team is fairly obvious.

In the NHL, it’s a little more of a crapshoot, but the same general idea applies.

In the NFL, it’s only one game, but there’s usually a sense that the best team emerged.

Then there’s the baseball playoffs, where once you get in, you feel like it’s anyone’s game and any of the teams can win the World Series. Those baseball playoffs…they’re just so finicky.

By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~