Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tie-break This!

Major League Baseball has a potential nightmare on its hands. Oh, it’s not like a steroid scandal or anything; in fact, it would be great for baseball and the fans would love it. This nightmare would be purely logistical.

There’s a possibility – a somewhat remote, statistically slim possibility, but still – that as many as five teams could end up with the same record in a fight over three playoff slots! The Mets, Phillies, Rockies, and Padres are within two games of each other, and the West division-leading D’Backs are only one game better. Now while it probably won’t happen, what if it did? The “tiebreaker scenario” machinery might blow a gasket trying to figure out how to solve that logjam.

It’s much easier when only a few teams are involved. Say, for example, the Mets, Phillies and Padres all finish tied. The Mets and Phillies would hold a one-game playoff to determine the winner of the N.L. East. The loser would then face the Padres for the Wildcard. But what happens if the Rockies join the party? Suddenly, three teams are left vying for the Wildcard. How would that work? A round-robin?

It’s worth rooting for such a scenario if only to see how MLB would solve it. I don’t have the inclination to whip up a spreadsheet to figure out who needs to win or lose and when to make this crazy scenario play out, but I’ll certainly be following that ticker as the season reaches it dénouement.

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