October 21, 2019

The World Series is stupid.

Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs make no sense.  I know this comes across as grousing coming from a Houston Astros fan, whose team has just made the World Series and whose team has the best record in MLB.  But they’re stupid, and they’re perpetuated by a media-dominated culture.

Baseball believes in large sample sizes to decide who is the best team.  It’s a sound strategy, but it falls apart once you hit the post-season.  How much sense does it make to decide that a team is the best over 162 games before putting that team to the test against another team with an inferior record in a five-game series to decide which advances to the league championship?  So that means that the 162-game “test phase”–also known as the regular season–is irrelevant if the team loses three of five games in the divisional round, a result that would prompt a shrug of the shoulders in the regular season.

And that’s why I think that MLB should follow the lead of my absolute favorite professional sports league, the English Premier League (EPL).  In EPL, the club that has the best record after playing every other side, once at home and once away, wins.  That’s it.  No “playoffs.”  No silly hyping a match between unequal rivals, just because one happened to luck its way into a wild-card spot or because the TV box demands ratings.  And no rewarding a team for “getting hot” at the right time of year when it couldn’t do it when it was important before.  In EPL, you prove yourself all season, or you go home empty-handed. (Seriously, how much sense does it make to insist that 162 games are necessary to show that a team is worthy and then rewarding it for “getting hot”?)

If a large sample size is actually the rationale for the length of the MLB season, the EPL model is a no-brainer.  The club that shows itself best, based on that large sample size, doesn’t risk losing it because some lesser squad manages to play above its median game for a few match-ups at the end of the season, nor do they lose that status because of one bad game.  Of course, it will never happen because American sports prize spectacle, above all else, and there’s little spectacle greater than the “World” Series (as Cuba, Japan, and others look on in disbelief).

That bit of pique being aired, go Astros!