Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Earth to Selig: Nix the NFL Tie-breaking System

Fenway Green Monster Standings: "Boston 96-66; New York 96-66"
Selig: "Well, actually since New York had the same record that Boston did, it wins the division. Of course the team that has a worse record against inferior teams wins the tie-breaker."
Baseball Fan: "Huh?"
Selig: "That's right. The team with the worst record against inferior teams wins."
Baseball Fan: "I don't get it. Huh?"
Selig: "It works like this. If you have a better head-to-head record against the team you're tied with by x number of games, since you have the same record it logicall follows that you have a worse record against other teams by the same x number of games. And since you're tied for first place, all other teams (which are NOT in first) have a worse record than the two teams that are tied. So, since the Yankees went 10-9 against the Red Sox, they had a 86-57 record against inferior teams, while the Red Sox had a 87-56 record against all other (inferior) teams. Since the Yankees had a worse record against inferior teams, they win the division."
Fan: "This is stupid!"
Selig: "Hey, don't blame me, we got this idea from the NFL. This way we don't have to have a playoff game that will make history, and instead the season finale can fade into a dud."
Fan: "I don't even want to watch football now."

What a waste. The Yankees "clinched" the division only to lose their one game lead on the final day and fall into a real tie with Boston. Baseball has adopted nonsense as rules with the NFL-ization of the national pastime. What's next, an "in-the-grasp" rule for collisions at home plate?

Baseball is the thinking man's game. Football is not, and never will be. Traditionally, baseball has resorted to settling differences (both teams' claim to a title despite having the same record, for example) via the playoff. Since baseball is an every day sport, it has that luxury. Football doesn't so it needs to resort to gimmicks not associated with a final showdown on the field. Instead it relies on a complex system of nonsense tie-breakers. Head-to-head records, records within division, against common opponents, point differentials, yardage differentials, coin tosses. These have nothing to do with who is the better team. One year, I remember the last week had some bizarre playoff spot twists. The Vikings were trying to make the playoffs, and the tie-breaker with another team was down to a point differential. They had to beat a team by 30+/- points more than another team's win. So, with a three touchdown lead and 4 minutes left, they were throwing 80 yard bombs instead of running out the clock, trying, not to beat their opponent, but, to beat the point differential. The opponent on the field was suddenly not the issue. How lame.

Baseball has adopted the wild-card and tie-breaking systems from the NFL and is the worse off for it. There's only one place anything should be settled at all. That's on the field. You listening, Mr. Selig?

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