Wild card drives me wild ... still

Just so you know: You've read this rant before. You'll read it again. Because we're being robbed. Again. This is a recording.

We're being robbed of a sporting archetype - the pennant race whose iconic memories are only the backbone of baseball. And this time: robbed of an epic pennant race. But does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Or are we entrenched in lockstep precision with the poohbahs of professional sports who have long since decided more is better?

It has been a historic September. Not that anyone's noticed. But since Sept. 3, the Orioles and Yankees have been separated by no more than one game in the standings. Twenty straight days of one-game separation is virtually unprecedented in baseball history. It hasn't happened to the Yankees like this in 61 years.

Could you imagine, in this era of hyperbole, the thesaurus-convulsions from the pundits if this actually produced winner-take-all at the end?

Instead, it's very likely both teams make the playoffs. With two wild cards now watering it down with one wasn't enough saturation, apparently the Yankees and Orioles are really in no danger. And while one will have the unenviable perch of a knockout game, at least there's that option of one more game.

No such luck with winner-take-all. Just more drama.

No other sport does this to us. No other sport manipulates our emotions every day. You're up, you're down. You're jacked up. You're hopeless. A win produces McFadden & Whitehead (Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now). A loss and it's B.J. Thomas (Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head). Then it's right back the next day. It's joyful stress. From Labor Day on. It's been fun. But it could be so much better.

I've heard the argument justifying the wild card because some wild card teams have won the World Series. That's on occasional occurrence. You know the more consistent occurrence? We've been robbed of the pennant race ever since.

And the feigned drama last season with wild card teams qualifying on the last day?

You do realize that was for the distinction of finishing second, right?

Used to be baseball was more interested in who finished first.

Like 1951 when Bobby Thomson took the most famous swing in baseball history. You know what would have happened with a wild card? Russ Hodges would have yelled, "The Giants with the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! And the Dodgers make the playoffs, too!"

Like 1967 when the Red Sox, Twins and Tigers went to the final day not knowing which of the three would make the playoffs. Now they'd all make it. Would anybody know Jim Lonborg today if today's rules existed back then?

Like 1978 when there would have been no one-game playoff at Fenway Park.

Now pause for a minute and reflect on the three examples. Bobby Thomson's swing, Yaz's two-run single to tie the game on Oct. 1, 1967 and Bucky Bleepin' Dent helped fortify baseball as our pastime. We're losing that. And nobody seems to care.

Anytime we traditionalists yearn for the good ol' days, we're painted as old, tired and stubborn. And then some stat-drunk nitwit trots out a few numbers that suggest 214 playoff teams are really the way to go now and if you don't see that, you're just on the same intellectual level. Except that as we attempt to teach our children than you can't always get a trophy, the evidence around us, all the way to the pros, suggests otherwise.

Another year, another fraudulent pennant race. And while most Yankee fans look at the wild card the way they'd look at the Thames River from the Gold Star Bridge way beneath them it's still an option.

Too bad.

Because 20 straight days of one up, one down or tied is about as good as it gets. Too bad baseball has lost its way.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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