OK, I’ll ask: Do the Patriots deserve to be in the Super Bowl and does the NL deserve a World Series representative?

So often we are given an idea or a rule and we just accept it, rather than question the hand giving it to us.

“Tradition” or “that’s the way it’s always been” is the worst reasoning for anything in life.
Old doesn’t mean good. Sorry, Baby Boomers, who jam “classic” rock music down our throats, but it’s true.

In sports, the traditional excuses are used way too often.

Faulty playoff systems are put in place with undeserving teams winning championships and we simply accept it because that’s the way it is. Rules, which simply don’t make sense, are enforced and we carry on and say, “What can you do?”

Well, you can question these rules and wonder if the outcome of a season is justified rather than just accept it.

My first question is: Did the New England Patriots deserve to defeat the Baltimore Ravens?

In the AFC Championship, there were 30 seconds remaining in the game and the Ravens were down by three. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco found wide receiver Lee Evans in the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown catch.

Evans caught the ball, got one foot down and appeared to get his second down just as Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore came from behind and knocked the ball loose.

Whether Evans’ second foot got down before Moore jarred the ball loose is not the question. The question is why does someone running toward the end zone just have to break the goal line with the ball, but a receiver needs to catch the ball, get two feet in and “make a football move” to declare a play a catch in the end zone?

Evans had the ball in the middle of the end zone far past the goal line. How much time does a defender have in the end zone to make a play? If a running back reaches with the ball toward the end zone, breaks the goal line and the ball gets swatted out of his hands, it’s still a touchdown, so why does a receiver have to “make a football move” in order for a catch to be a touchdown?

This doesn’t take away from the heads-up play by Moore, but it does call into question the NFL rule. Unfortunately, these rules are only questioned when they may have cost a team.
And, perhaps, I’m just mad that we now have a Super Bowl between two fan bases that feel the rest of the world starts and stops on everything its teams do thanks to Eastern Seaboard Programming Network (ESPN).

So ESPN is going to talk about New York and a Boston-area team over and over again? Must be a rerun.

My second sports-related question: With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder now in the American League, does the National League deserve a World Series representative?

Quick. Name five star hitters in the National League. Not that easy, right?

For far too long, the National League has been allowing mediocre to bad teams to enter the playoffs in MLB.

And seeing as a team just has to go 11-8 in the faulty MLB playoff system, we end up with champions such as the 83-win St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies, who had Cole Hamels, Brett Meyers and Jamie Moyer as their No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 starters in 2008, the 2010 San Francisco Giants, who had Aubrey Huff as their best hitter, and last season’s St. Louis Cardinals of whom I bet you can’t name five players outside of Albert Pujols.

These teams are not champions. They aren’t even close. In most cases, every American League team in the playoffs was better than the NL team that made the World Series and in some cases, the World Series champions don’t even deserve to be in the playoffs. Once you make the World Series, you just need to win four games out of seven versus an AL team that just had to play the best teams in baseball and you’re dubbed world champs.

Talent changing hands is usually cyclical, but this is getting outrageous, especially with Pujols and Fielder changing leagues and the reigning NL MVP possibly being suspended for 50 games. The difference between the leagues just went from not even close to not the same sport.

Since 2005, the AL has a 979-785 record in interleague play. 2012 may not be the end of the world, but it looks like it could be the end of relevance in the National League. And, yet, it still gets a representative in the World Series and, thanks to an idiotic rule, perhaps even home field advantage in it.

The best way to do things would be one giant league where the top eight teams make the playoffs, but that would take away division rivalries, which means ticket prices couldn’t be raised for those games.

With the added wildcard team possibly happening this season, we could see a team under .500 headed to the playoffs in the NL. A 12-8 record over three weeks later and you have yourselves another undeserving champion.

And that’s just the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

14 thoughts on “OK, I’ll ask: Do the Patriots deserve to be in the Super Bowl and does the NL deserve a World Series representative?

  1. First of all, in regards to ESPN and the Hyper Bowl, easiest thing to do is tune out. In the scheme of things it does not matter. And seriously, you’re lobbying for a rules change because a guy who caught 4 passes in the regular season failed to complete a catch based on rules (for completing a catch) that have, for the most part, been called consistently for catches in the field of play and in the endzone? Running and catching the ball are two separate things and that is why different requirements are in force.

    Second of all, I could write a book on your “faulty” logic in the MLB section. By your definition, which playoff system, i.e pro, college, etc., is not faulty?

    NHL and NBA playoffs both allow too many teams in and teams only need to go 16-12 (.571 winning %) to win it all. In the NFL, the team that gets hot in the playoffs is usually in for a good run and the win or go-home scenario really doesn’t prove much. As much maligned as the BCS is, it usually gets the two teams playing in the championship close to right (not much different than when it was based on AP poll). In MLB, a team can go 11-8 (.578 winning %, not 11-9) to win the WS and play the maximum games.

    While it is also true, like in all of the sports maybe save for the NBA (where the wheat is separately from the chaff fairly distinctly), that a MLB team just needs to make playoffs and get hot. It does not mean that the team that made it into the playoffs is not good just because its record may only be a few games over .500. Too many variables in play such as strength (or weakness) of division, teams falling apart at the stretch, payroll disparities, etc. A winning % above .500 is good even if the team doesn’t make the playoffs in the longest-grind of a season of all the sports. FYI – no MLB team below .500 has ever made the playoffs and, even if Bud’s idiotic new wildcard team gets put in place, it is still highly improbable that a sub .500 team will ever make the playoffs (5 out of 16 NL teams, 5 out of 14 AL teams).

    You argue that because the NL lost two big star-power batters that it is now a secondary league? Hmm, really? Is baseball just an offensive game? Didn’t think so. Look at the quality of top-tier pitchers in the NL (Lincecum, Kershaw, Halladay, Gallardo, Wainwright, etc.), plus they still have plenty of batting stars (Kemp, J. Upton, H. Ramirez, Reyes, Howard, Tulowotski, Votto, etc. – just because they don’t play in ESPN hyped-markets doesn’t mean they are slouches).

    To correct some factual errors: Hamels and Brett Myers were 1 & 2 for Phillies in 2008, Huff didn’t play for Giants in 2009 – Giants won 2010 WS and, yes, Huff was their best batter (career year) that year followed by Juan Uribe (I know, laughable but they won by creating runs backed by an outstanding rotation).

    Does it really matter what the differential is in interleague play? Not really. The only time the winning % between the two leagues playing each other matters is in the WS. And as you said, “The difference between the leagues just went from not even close to not the same sport.” Essentially, the two leagues play a variation of the same sport. NL = pure baseball, pitchers have to be at least somewhat capable with the bat. AL = bastardized leagues where “professional” hitters go to die because of the DH. In essence, the two leagues sport a whole different style of play. While in a WS, the AL may suffer from having to bat a pitcher in NL-hosted games, but I would argue that the NL is affected the most as the style of play makes up how a bench is comprised and the AL gets the advantage of having one more quality bat to use in late-game situations.

    In closing, while I agree with you that determining the WS home-field based on the All Star game winner and the addition of the proposed Wildcard team are both travesties, you are dead wrong on the quality of teams that are in the two MLB leagues. That is why they play the games on the field and not in ESPN’s smoke-filled production rooms.

    • I’m calling into question a rule that doesn’t make sense regardless of who was involved in the play. Ask Calvin Johnson if this catch should count.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0V-FStGxSY

      When a running back dives for the first down and the ball comes loose it’s a fumble, but when he dives for the end zone and the ball comes loose it’s a touchdown. But when a receiver catches the ball in the end zone, the defender has time to come up and knock it out after he comes down?

      For such an important rule, it has to be made clearer.

      The only playoff systems that aren’t faulty are the NHL and the NBA because a weak team will not make it through those playoff systems (they may make it a round or 2, but eventually will die out) and you will always at least get a top 3 team winning the championship. It’s a system you can at least accept the champion for going through, rather than having unworthy teams getting hot at the right time when they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

      You know how easy it is to win a 5-game series, like the division series are ridiculously made up of, with two good pitchers? You don’t even need hitting or defense (ask the Giants).

      A team that is only a few games over .500 should not make the MLB playoffs because they only make it thanks to their division, not because they earned it. Put them in a different division or a different league and they don’t make it. Simple.

      Aces match up pretty well in both leagues, but when you get into the depth of pitching rotations, the NL has no chance. It’s also pretty sad you have to mention Adam Wainwright, who didn’t play last year, Yovani Gallardo and his unoutstanding 3.52 ERA from last year and Hanley Ramirez and his .243 batting average, 10 HR, .333 OBP and .712 OPS from last year when reaching for stars in the NL.

      Thanks for the corrections. I forgot about Brett Meyers, which means the Phillies were a worse team than I thought.

      So using a small sample size like the World Series matters more than over 1,600 games? How bout the countless number of players who jump from leagues and completely fall off in the AL and flourish in the NL in recent years (see Javier Vazquez, Carlos Silva, Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn, Matt Holliday, Jose Contreras, Brad Penny, Casey Blake, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff).

      Look at what C.C. Sabathia did when he went to the Brewers for that vacation to the NL or what Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are doing compared to what they did in the AL.

      Please don’t bring up how the NL is pure baseball over the AL. The NL is pure baseball for the 1950s. Why is watching a pitcher awkwardly try to bunt more pure than watching a professional hitter actually take an at-bat? If anything, neither the pitcher nor the DH should bat, but the DH makes far more sense than the automatic-out pitcher in this era.

      The talent is completely unbalanced in the leagues. I’m not saying the NL doesn’t have talent, but the AL is superior in every way to it and in 2012 it could be more unbalanced than ever.

  2. From your OP: ” “Tradition” or “that’s the way it’s always been” is the worst reasoning for anything in life.” and “And that’s just the way it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”

    So, because many a pitcher today and in day’s past swing/have swung the bat “awkwardly”, we should accept this lack of athleticism? On the flip side, should we accept players who can’t play the field or run the bases effectively that they should get 4-5 at bats per game because they suck at most of the game but they can hit or that they are aging relics holding onto their fading careers?

    Interesting article I found regarding current player’s sentiments on the DH and possible expansion of it: http://bit.ly/AztnYu

    The NHL and NBA playoffs are the only not faulty formats? As I said in my OP, those two leagues allow too many teams in for that consideration – the NBA and NHL both have two 15-team conferences and eight teams from each conference make the playoffs! 16 out of 30 teams in each league make the playoffs! And what’s worse, NBA teams frequently make the playoffs by failing to have a winning record. In 2003-2004, 4 of the 8 teams to make the Eastern Conf. playoffs were at or below .500.

    While those teams have little chance of going much further than the first or second round, why are they even allowed to get there? And why do the NBA and NHL playoffs take almost as long to complete as the sport’s regular seasons? If, as you say that almost always you get a top 3 team making the championship, then why are these louts of teams getting a chance to compete against them? It’s because the chance of an upset creates excitement and championships aren’t won on paper.

    Comparing a team’s record to another team in a different division is comparing apples to oranges. Team X goes 84-78 in the West doesn’t mean the team would have had the same record in the East. Saying that by putting a team in a different division that they won’t or will make the playoffs doesn’t cut it. That can’t be proved because you don’t know how the team would perform with a different schedule against different teams. It doesn’t work that way.

    Heh, I came up with players off the top of my head: Wainwright career 66-35, 2.97 ERA – missed last year, so what? He will likely return to form as a top SP. Hanley Ramirez – he had a down year, so what? He is still a supremely-talented athlete. Gallardo – a 3.52 ERA is bad? since when? He is a top-young SP.

    Lee, Sabathia and Halladay have pitched well in both leagues so I’m not sure the point. Many a player have switched leagues and saw performance changes. Sometimes an adjustment period is needed, sometimes players don’t miss a beat, sometimes players are dealing with injuries or other issues and some players are just better suited for one league or the other.

    Sure, maybe the interleague split does bear more weight…for team’s winning games in June. WS wins trump regular season wins.

    As for the AL having more talent, that is a premise put forth because two big names jumped ship. That neither proves or disproves which league has more talent, it just shows that AL teams have been more apt to open their pocketbooks for proven talent.

    Just because a league or a team looks superior on paper doesn’t mean that that will translate to the field of play. If that were the case, let’s crown teams based on off-season moves or supposed quality of talent and not even play the games.

    I’ve seen that Calvin Johnson play many times and didn’t the NFL say after that game that the call was wrong and have since been more consistent calling plays like that a catch? The Evans’ play is debatable. I don’t know why it wasn’t challenged but from my viewing of it, he did not have secure control of the ball while getting both feet down. Big difference from crossing the goal line with ball and reaching for a first down. When the ball crosses the plane of goal line, it needs not to go any further. In the field of play, the ball can continue on until it reaches that “magical” goal line.

    • In regards to the DH, I didn’t say we should accept either. But, in this era, where we’ve found a pitcher pitching to be so valuable his three at-bats are only for him to not get hurt and perhaps move a runner along, a DH makes more sense.

      Personally, I think they should get rid of both.

      I do agree that the NHL and NBA playoffs are too long and have too many teams, but you can’t cut it to six teams and four teams is way too small, so 8 is what is has to be. And, if it takes long to get a champion, then it takes long.

      Unfortunately, fans want a quick answer and that’s what other playoffs do for them, which doesn’t give the grueling regular season (especially in baseball) justice.

      You’re exactly right about upsets and excitement, but what gets to me is when they happen to teams that shouldn’t be there in the first place. I don’t care what VCU did last season in the tournament, they took away a spot in the NCAA tournament from a more deserving team that did better with a tougher schedule in the regular season.

      But they got in, shot a lot of 3s and a lot of them fell in and they made a run to the Final Four.

      Well when you’re not winning in a bad division then one can assume you wouldn’t win as much in a better division (like the 83-win Cardinals from 2006).

      Gallardo has talent, but a 3.52 ERA is nothing special. It’s solid, but it isn’t incredible, especially when you’re trying to name stars.

      Halladay, Lee and Sabathia are good in both leagues, but they dominate the NL. Halladay has dropped his ERA more than 0.30; a 34-year-old shouldn’t be doing that. Sabathia had a 3.83 in 122.1 innings in the AL in 2008, went to the NL and had a 1.65 in 133 innings and nearly won the MVP. Lee went from a 3.18 ERA last season in the AL to a 2.40 ERA in the NL last year.

      My point was the AL was already superior, so adding Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols certainly won’t make it worse. As of now, we’re looking at the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers and Rangers being better than any NL team. You could even argue the Angels and Rays are better than the Phillies as well.

      I understand the rule when crossing the goal line, but my question is why? I also understand a catch needs to be a catch before it can be a touchdown, but why does a receiver then have to “make a football move”? A receiver would almost be better off catching it at the 1 and just reaching than catching it in the end zone in traffic.

      It would probably be better off saying a player must fully be in the end zone for a touchdown to be a touchdown no matter what.

      I think the call was correct in the Ravens game, but it just made me think about that rule, which I’ve never understood.

  3. I agree with your sentiment to a certain degree, Murph. There always seem to be teams left out because of the playoff rules. But I think you’re forgetting that it still takes talent to do the skills that may not result in huge glory stats like HRs, BA, and ERA. The NL plays a different style of baseball that relies more on speed, defense, and fundamentals than hitting the ball out of the park, much like the Twins style of play (which they have been moving away from and low and behold they are less competitive). You bring up Halladay and the like that have had more success in the NL, but fail to recognize the caliber of defense backing them up is far superior to the ones backing them up in the AL. It takes talent to be elite in the field, but game saving defensive plays don’t end up in the stat book. That is why the WS is so much fun to watch! You get to see which team’s skills ultimately prevail! More often than not you’re going to see teams going strength against strength which makes for a great matchup and we end up with unbelievable WS like 91 or 2011. Would the 2011 Cardinals or the 2010 Giants have made it out of the AL in those years? Who knows, but it’s fun to watch opposite, and I contend equal, styles battle it out on the field.

    I’m curious about what you think of the 2008 Superbowl. Should the Giants have been crowned Superbowl Champions because they got hot at the right time and came from the Wildcard spot to beat the undefeated Pats? Could it be that the AFC East was terrible that year and the Giants clawed through one of the toughest divisions to eek into the playoffs? What about the Steelers in 06? The AFC North is continually one of the most competive in football. And the Pack last year? The Black and Blue division beats up on itself every year (much to the chagrin of this Vikes fan).

    No playoff system is perfect, and yes sometimes the divisions result in less deserving teams making the playoffs. But divisions develop rivalries that spur interest and, quite honestly, often more competive games as a result of familiarity. Also, divisions allow the leagues to develop schedules that are equally difficult amongst all the teams, which would be impossible for the NFL to do if they abolished divisions (16 game schedule, 32 teams), difficult for the NBA and NHL, and could possibly be done in MLB with 162 games, but would hurt the rivalries that a weighted schedule helps keep thriving.

    Does the best team always get crowned champion? No, but every team has the same opportunity to be crowned champion and that is what matters.

    • Don’t get me wrong. Playoffs are fun to watch, but what irks me is when the mediocre teams win based on circumstances (such as what division they are in, what league they are in, what kind of road the NCAA committee makes for them) rather than talent. And I do believe winning any playoff takes some talent.

      Good example.

      There’s really no way to fix football. It essentially has to be one game. You can’t make any round into a series because players would die. The thing about the NFL playoffs is you can respect what a team went through to win it, no matter who wins it. Winning three or four football games is not easy and requires much more than two pitchers getting hot. A hot football player can’t stop a good scheme or game plan.

      You’re right. Divisions make things more interesting, provide rivalries and all that good stuff, but continually having an entire league being as bad as the NL gets old.

      And, no, the top team usually doesn’t get crowned, but I’d like to at least see the top 3. Unfortunately, no NL team is in the top 3.

      • I disagree that the NL is that much worse than the AL. They’ve won 3 of the last 5 and 6 of the last 10 WS. They are way more competive now than they were in the 90′s when they only managed to scare up three WS wins. Having the most talent, especially show off stat talent, doesn’t necessarily equate to having the best team (see teams put together by Terry Ryan, Billy Bean, and Theo Epstein…all money ballers). Sure, having stars like Pujols, A-Rod, Fielder, Votto, Cabrerra, Howard, or Hamilton on your team helps you win games, but it takes proficiency in all phases of the game to have the best team. Do you think the Rangers’ fans wish their team played a little better defense in the WS this year?

          • I don’t think either league is head and shoulders above the other. I wouldn’t say the NL has an easier path either. In the last decade, there have been 4 ALCS to go 7, and 3 NLCS to go 7. There have only been 3 WS to go 7, which I think means most of the winners have been pretty dominant in the series. Yes, the leagues play a different style, and I think both styles can dominate a game or series. An AL team can beat teams into submission with hitting and win the WS, and NL can win the series with pitching and defense. The AL has more bats, the NL has more arms and 1st to 3rd guys. I would possibly agree that the AL may be stronger from top to bottom, but I think the best teams from the NL can more hang with the best from the AL.

          • Okay, how about this?

            Of the top 50 hitting WAR (wins above replacement) leaders from last season, 31 are now in the AL. Of the top 50 pitching WAR leaders from last season, 26 are in the AL.

            The NL adding Gio Gonzalez, Mark Buehrle and Trevor Cahill in the offseason could help them even out the depth of their starting staffs, but it doesn’t outweigh the massive difference in hitting talent in the AL.

  4. That difference in WAR, while seemingly large with 31 in AL vs. 19 in NL now, is really only a matter of 6 players to make the split even. By the way, what was your source for the WAR info?

    Interesting read: http://bit.ly/x5eCuE

    I like his closing sentence.

    • The bible: baseballreference.com

      And, yes, the AL, as a whole, spends much more, but what makes me not feel sorry for the NL is of the top 10 payrolls, four of them are NL teams and six are AL teams. So NL teams have spent, but just ridiculously (see the Mets and Cubs).

      That was a dynamite way to end that article though.

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