Dave Anderson has seen the NL West and he's afraid
by Bob Timmermann
Dave Anderson of the New York Times has seen a horrific vision of the Division Series and he thinks that there could be a team with a losing record making the playoffs. This horrific possiblity must not stand!
With the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers each struggling to stay around the .500 mark, if not falling below it, it’s possible that, as a division winner, a team with an under-.500 record (in other words, a losing team), would automatically qualify for the postseason.
Should that happen, it would make a mockery of the playoff structure. A team with a losing record does not deserve to be in the playoffs, much less deserve to be considered a champion of any division or anything.
It may not happen. The Diamondbacks, now three games over .500, and the Dodgers, at .505 but presumably reinforced by Manny Ramírez’s bat, each may rise well above .500 over the last two months of the schedule.
Anderson proposes that if a division winner not have a winning record, then a second wild card team be accepted.
I can think of a lot of horrible things that could happen in baseball. I think a team winning a division with a record below .500 is not one of them.
For starters, what if it's your favorite team that has the losing record and wins the division? What are you rooting for down the stretch? Is there something so much more magical about team winning 81 games than 80?
In 1973, the Mets won the NL East with an 82-79 record? There were no calls in the New York Times to ask for the NL East champ to be removed from the playoffs if no team in the division had a winning record (which was the case as late as September 21, 1973).
I still think the chances of the NL West champ having a losing record are pretty slim mainly because Arizona and Los Angeles get to play lots of games down the stretch against the likes of San Francisco and San Diego (and Colorado to a lesser extent).
Anderson brings up the example of the 1994 season ending with the Rangers atop the AL West at 52-62. The Rangers poor record that year wasn't helped by the team losing 9 of 11 games before the Great Unpleasantness began.
But remember the hard and fast rule of writers like Anderson: New York teams with bad records winning pennants (1973 Mets and 2000 Yankees) are gutty underdogs, but teams like the 2006 Cardinals or the 1988 Dodgers are just flukes and not worthy of mention.
And Anderson does like to point out that when there were no divisions, there was no danger of the pennant winner not having a losing record.