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Commentary: Dodgers playing as a No. 4 seed in NL playoffs? Fix this, MLB

Cody Bellinger, center, disputes a call with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook during a 5-0 loss.
Cody Bellinger disputes a call with home plate umpire Sam Holbrook during a 5-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday. The Dodgers are on pace to win 101 games but might be relegated to a wild-card game.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

In 2007, the NBA changed its playoff format so that the teams with the best records in each conference could not meet until the conference finals.

Too bad the Dodgers do not play in the NBA.

The Dodgers have the second-best record in the National League. They are on pace to win 101 games. Under an NBA-style format, they would be the second seed in the NL playoffs.

Alas, under the Major League Baseball format, the Dodgers could be one and done in the NL playoffs. They would be seeded fourth among the five NL playoff teams, relegated to a wild-card game in which they could be eliminated by a team on pace to win 87 games.

Colorado wins the rubber game of three-game series with a 5-0 victory.

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The Atlanta Braves, on pace to win the NL East with 88 victories, would get a bye into the Division Series. They could lose their first playoff game and their next game would be the next day, not next spring.

Winning your division is wonderful. Pop the champagne. Hang a banner. Get a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

But, come on, should the Dodgers really be penalized because of geography? The San Francisco Giants are on pace to win 105 games, and the playoff format should allow for the possibility of the Dodgers and Giants facing off in the NL Championship Series.

If the Dodgers and Giants do meet in the playoffs, the winner would merely advance to the NLCS.

“I do like the format of the NBA,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The two best teams, in the sample of a major league season, should have the best chance of meeting in the postseason, and not just in the first round.”

Roberts has a vested interest, of course. On Sunday, running the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium: Bud Black, now the manager of the Colorado Rockies.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is pictured July 22.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says “the two best teams, in the sample of a major league season, should have the best chance of meeting in the postseason, and not just in the first round.”
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Black pitched for the 1993 Giants, a team that won 103 games but finished one game behind the Braves in the NL West and did not make the postseason.

“That one stung,” Black said. “You would suspect that 103 wins gets you into some sort of playoffs.”

The next year, MLB introduced the wild card. No longer did a team need to win its division to get into the playoffs. The second-place team with the best record got in too.

What happened to the 1993 Giants has not happened again. But, with every playoff team starting with a best-of-five series, there was no significant incentive to win your division. Some teams eased up in September, preferring to aim for the most favorable postseason matchup rather than the best record.

So, in 2012, MLB added a second wild card. Win your division or face a sudden-death playoff game. The league’s television partners loved it and paid up to show it.

And, since then, only one wild-card team has won 100 games: the 2018 New York Yankees, who survived their one-game playoff.

Will Smith hit a go-ahead, two-run single in a three-run eighth inning for the Dodgers, who finally cashed in walks and beat the Colorado Rockies 5-2.

This is not a crisis that threatens the sport. Still, Black wonders why the Dodgers should be penalized for playing in the same division as the Giants. He does not have the vested interest Roberts does, but he endorses the NBA format too.

“I would prefer that,” Black said. “Your record should count for something.

“You might be in a good division. This is a good division. If you’re a good team in a good division, that should count for something.”

The collective bargaining agreement expires in December, and owners would like to expand the postseason field starting in 2022. If the players agree, perhaps the field can be seeded according to record.

In the meantime, the Dodgers are sure to hear this retort: If you don’t like it, win your division. They’re on it. They trail the Giants by 2½ games, and the teams play three next weekend in San Francisco.

This is really where the rivalry ought to heat up. To the “Beat L.A.” crowd: If there is going to be an inequity, let Frisco suffer.


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