Finally, playoff baseball

Illustration by Carolyn Rees

#KickinWithKolby - Thoughts from a Native sports fan #Sportzball

Each spring, baseball diehards rejoice in the return of Major League Baseball. In 2014, a petition to make Opening Day a national holiday collected more than 100,000 signatures, which garnered a response from the White House.

Ultimately, the national pastime was not declared a national holiday.

Keep in mind, Opening Day is normally in the last week of March or first week of April. We’re just now getting to the games that really count, the playoffs, in late September or October.

I’ve long maintained that the baseball regular season is far too long, is it really necessary to play 162 games?

Admittedly, I could be a little salty because my favorite team, the Los Angeles Angels, haven’t made the playoffs since 2014 and have hovered around .500 ever since despite having the best player in the game. (Mike Trout in case you were wondering.) But I digress.

I also don’t have any solutions as to how to make the season shorter that would appease the league owners and fans. One of the main reasons professional sports leagues refuse to make their seasons shorter is because they don’t want to lose out on the revenue each team gets from all the home games.

Yet, shorter seasons make it so every game is critical. Which to me is one of the reasons why the NFL dominates the television ratings year in and year out. Every Sunday matters when you only have 16 of them. It’s hard to imagine MLB teams fret a couple losses in May.

But back to the original question posed, is a 162-game season necessary?

The preseason favorites — the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers — have all won more than 100 games, as expected. There are also the feel-good stories, as in the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals, who are headed to the playoffs after an unexpected great season (Twins) or being written off midseason only to resurge (Nationals).

If anything, I guess such a long season allows the “window of opportunity” for teams like the Nationals to stay open longer.

One would also think that over the course of such a long season, the best teams would separate themselves from the rest. While this is apparent with the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers; the fight for the Wild Card spots will likely come down to the final day.

Even then, after 162 games, there is a possibility that two teams will be tied and be forced to play in game 163 for the final Wild Card spot. Essentially playing a one-game playoff, to get into a one-game playoff (Wild Card round), to get to the Divisional series.

While that makes for compelling storylines to end the regular season, history shows the Wild Card is unlikely to produce a champion. Since its inception in 1995, 12 teams have made the World Series from the Wild Card spot. Of those 12, only six have won it all — the Florida Marlins, in 1997 and 2003; Anaheim Angels, in 2002; Boston Red Sox, in 2004; St. Louis Cardinals, in 2011; and San Francisco Giants, in 2014.

So if you’re a betting person, it’s probably smarter to take one of the aforementioned 100-plus win teams over a Wild Card team to win it all. For what it’s worth, I think the Astros will beat the Dodgers in six games in the “Fall Classic,” but that isn’t a bold prediction by any means.

All in all, I guess this is a long-winded plea to the powers that be to shorten the MLB regular season. Speaking on behalf of the casual sports fan, we don’t want to wait more than six months for the drama and suspense that postseason baseball brings.

With all that said, you can count on me being plopped in front of my TV next Tuesday and Wednesday when the baseball playoffs finally start; I just wish we didn’t have to wait for 162 games to get here.

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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